Outré by D. Harlan Wilson
Paperback, 126 pages
Expected publication: November 1st 2020 by Raw Dog Screaming Press
D. Harlan Wilson is an author I have reviewed probably eight times in the eleven years I have been reviewing books for this blog. In 2008 he won the first-ever Wonderland award for Bizarro fiction for this totally insane novel Dr. Identity which I always mention. The book is one of the most hilarious science fiction novels I ever read. It is one part Philip K Dick and another part Monty Python. Of all the voices working the spaces between Science Fiction, bizarro, absurdism, and literary fiction no one is surfing all those waves like DHW.
On the surface Wilson is not my type of writer, I am a structure and conventional style nerd. What does appeal to me about Wilson's work is I also love weird, and totally gonzo insane concepts. My favorite stuff is the work that balances those two things but this is not about what I like, in this review I want to convince you that if you like weird and out-there stuff you need D. Harlan Wilson in front of your eyeballs.
Wilson could give a fuck about rules, this is not a three-act structure or a narrative that would be taught by a stuffy English professor. Wilson has a weird mind and this book has a concept and setting but within that framework, Wilson is letting the funk out of his mind without limitations. For me, one of the best parts is that I am always laughing when reading this man's books.
This novel is weird, perhaps not as weird as Wilson's last book The Psychotic Dr. Schreber which is 150 pages of insanity. This was a tight concept inspired by a real-life psychopath - A habit Wilson has gotten into over the years. He has written surreal biographies of noted figures including Hitler.
Outre' on the other hand is a return of sorts to bizarro Sci-fi, influenced heavily by the biocritical book he recently wrote about J.G. Ballard. I am not stretching to make this connection on page 15: "Overpopulation has rendered the surface of the earth an exoskeleton of Ballardian highrises." The book is set in a landscape that just screams like parts of Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition. It has that same kind of schiz-flow but with an updated middle finger lifted to the current media landscape.
Now here I have to admit that I have not read Moby Dick since I struggled through it in school but there are many elements of Melville's classic woven in here that probably flew over my head. The thing is That when you read a D.Harlan Wilson novel many concepts will make that journey. You have to accept that you are not on the same plane of existence with the author and just enjoy that you get a glimpse into the strange place between the man's ears.
There are many targets of the modern mass media that get attention from Oprah to film directors. Warner Herzog, David Lynch, and Stanly Kubrick all have fun cameos. The line in the book that hit close to home was near the end. "As such, the presence of zombies in literature is reduced to books only read by their authors - which constitutes the bulk of contemporary fiction." Ouch.
Outre' is a must-read for D. Harlan Wilson fans, and weird absurdist fiction fans. Science Fiction and PKD fans I think you will enjoy this. I certainly think you'll laugh. One more thing for my PK Dickheads - Professor Wilson is one of us.
Certainly, check out his episode on our show: