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Murder, rape, blasphemy, and suicide are only a few of the apocalyptic delights offered up on nearly every page of Flan, Stephen Tunney's violent and grotesque first novel. It is a beautifully dangerous book. By so ferociously sodomizing the language, Tunney gives us something spontaneous and hugely funny - a novel in the rogue tradition of Don Quixote and Naked Lunch, full of delirious nonsense and delicious irony, a novel sure to delight a few and offend many.

Flan is set during an unnamed holocaust (probably nuclear war) that has tumed the American landscape into a smoldering, cartoonlike wasteland - called Hell by Flan, the "hero" of this novel-where beasts sprout human heads and the few people still alive have been reduced to strangely enthusiastic cannibalism. As a literary character, Flan is a cross between Beaver Cleaver and Celine's Bardamu; a vicious misanthropy lurks beneath his gee-whiz naivetd.

After waking up to find his apartment building on fire, Flan rescues his talking fish, Ginger Kang Kang, and sets out to find his girlfriend somewhere in the mountains. It is indeed a journey through Hell - people are taking food from the stomachs of corpses, animals have become as conniving and eloquent as humans, and teenage bandits roam the countryside raping and pillaging. They encounter strange and unbelievable things: a walking, talking human, for example, "made up of one thousand three hundred and seventy-seven small hummingbirds, six hundred thousand four hundred and ninety-two ants, twelve tapeworms, and one corpse. The corpse is dead, but the rest of us are quite alive and well, thank you, and we all work together in perfect unison."

Flan is the kind of work that completely rejects the notion that the novel must be a carefully plotted, highly polished narrative. Tunney, a painter by profession, has an improvisatory, highly visual writing style that derives its energy from cartoons, comics, and commercials-a disposition that links him in spirit to writers like Donald Barthelme and Jerome Charyn. Readers who relish the bizarre extremes of contemporary writing should not miss Flan.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:DeRossitt, James
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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