Reviewed: Madness Has a Moment and Then Returns Again by Benjamin DeVos Published by: Dostoyevsky Wannabe
I was a rookie detective investigating my first homicide. I knocked on the suspect’s door, and Ryan Gosling answered, wearing a bloodstained bowling shirt. I did not notice the blood at first. I was too distracted by his beautiful blue eyes. He was the perfect specimen of a man. He looked like the kind of man who could nurse a dying puppy back to health. I told him that I was investigating his eyes. Then I said that I was investigating a murder, which occurred the evening before at Lucky Strike Bowling Alley. (pg. 13)
Celebrities are just normal people, if normal people are mass murdering, werewolf evolving, child-enslaving psychopaths. A humorous take on pop culture, Benjamin DeVos’ book Madness Has a Moment and Then Vanishes Before Returning Again is a fresh and humorous short story collection reminiscent of the tabloids in the checkout line of your local grocery.
But there’s a twist here; these are actually well written.
I was nervous when there was no answer at the front door, and I thought maybe he had skipped town. I decided to break in through the window. There was no sign of him on the first floor, but I could hear a metallic rasp coming from the basement. I followed the sound until I found Ryan Gosling, standing over a meat grinder, holding Jake Gyllenhaal upside down by his ankles. Jake Gyllenhaal’s lower body was in a gory mound on the ground. I initially considered calling the paramedics, who I thought might have been able to separate the grinder from its housing so that the leftovers of Jake Gyllenhaal could remain, maybe in a museum, where future generations could behold the once promising young thespian. (14)
Madness is a perfect blend of urban legends and non-fiction style stories that have gone too far. Using current fan favorites of the entertainment industry, DeVos weaves head-scratching surrealist elements into a world of pop culture that is central to everyday life.
Each story moves along a similar track, recounting the narrator’s mundane encounters that quickly unfold into, as the title indicates, madness. For example, the Ryan Gosling series seems at first to be a typical police investigation, but by incorporating elements from existing media like the cult television series The X-Files and best-selling self-help guide The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, along with aspects of his deranged imagination, DeVos takes a familiar situation and twists it until it is unrecognizable.
Beneath the shelf was a chainsaw, which, before I became lucid, had suggested we use to chop up David Duchovny into little pieces. Ryan Gosling rejected my suggestion, calling it, “Cliché amateur bullshit.” I picked up the chainsaw and tried to rev the engine. Ryan Gosling laughed and said, “There’s no gas in it, stupid.” He pulled the hammer out of his tool belt, and, with a deranged look on his face, charged toward me. I swung the chainsaw in self-defense, and inadvertently sliced open Ryan Goslings jugular with the teeth of the blade. Blood squirted everywhere. David Duchovny cheered, “Hooray! You got him.” I caught Ryan Gosling as he fell, and pinched shut the severed artery by reaching my hand into his neck. David Duchovny told me to “Let the bastard bleed out,” but I was a vegan. I valued all life. (pg. 17)
Though the humor of this book is dependent on obscurity, it also allows the readers to examine themselves as consumers of pop culture. Madness brings celebrities down to our level, but it does so with certain empathy that simultaneously humanizes the characters. Together with the narrator, they are thrust into situations that test both their ethics and their will to survive in the real world, separate from the realm of celebrity that we are accustomed to seeing them in.
I called the paramedics, who took Ryan Gosling to the hospital where he got three hundred stitches across his neck. The traumatic incident led Ryan Gosling down a spiral of nightmares and chronic depression. He tried to kill himself in prison but was saved by one of the guards. Eventually, he was able to cope with his demons through intense psychotherapy and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which he read over and over again on a never-ending cycle. (pg. 18)
Here’s the challenge.
Pick up Madness and enter a book where the rules of literature are second to the plot, where the cult of personality is nonexistent, and where the celebs are too casual for comfort. Despite its dissociation from actuality, this collection is for anyone living in the real world that is looking for an escape. It is for anyone who encounters famous people and visualizes them in uncanny circumstances. Like have you ever wondered if Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker actually make a good crime-fighting police duo?
I know I have.
Chuck Harp is a writer and Temple University graduate from the Philadelphia area. His work can be found with Public Pool, Random Poetry, and 101 Words. He currently resides in Los Angeles.