Dermaphoria

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9780007198498: Dermaphoria

Clandestine chemistry and the LA underworld provide the atmosphere for this kaleidoscopic tale of lost memories and the heartbreak of finding them, from the author of ‘The Contortionist’s Handbook’.

When Eric Ashworth wakes in jail, he has no idea how he got there, or why. His only memory is a woman's name: Desiree.

Released on bail and holed up in a low-rent motel, Eric starts to piece together his former life as a chemist at the centre of a desert drug ring with the help of a powerful new hallucinogen which simultaneously loosens his grip on the present. As the events of his past begin to emerge from the confusion of his fragmented memory, Eric must contend with a gnawing paranoia and the need for ever-increasing fixes – not to mention disturbing visits from an intimidating police detective, his former associate Manhattan White and the ominously named Toe Tag. As his grip on reality becomes more tenuous, past and present, reality and fantasy begin to bleed into each other, bringing this visceral, shifting novel of love and loss to its climax.

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Review:

'What makes this worth reading is Craig Clevenger's extraordinary prose: the pleasure of text is everything.' Guardian

‘What makes the book so unique, so compulsively readable, is Clevenger’s ability to make complex images seem so unforced.’ Independent on Sunday

‘A brilliant satire.’ Sainsbury’s Magazine

'It's dizzying stuff…no wonder Chuck Palahniuk is singing his praises on the back cover.' Metro

Praise for ‘The Contortionist’s Handbook’:

'A dazzling and highly original debut novel which instantly establishes its author as one of the most interesting writers to emerge in years. This book deserves to be massive and I think it will be.' Irvine Welsh

‘Craig Clevenger has crafted an unforgettable antihero in John Dolan Vincent. This is an extraordinary debut.’ Richard Kelly, director of ‘Donnie Darko’

‘What sticks out about this remarkable debut are its pitch-perfect shock ending and John Vincent himself – his complex, conflicting mind, original voice and unnervingly self-defeating existence.’ Time Out

From the Author:

Travis Elborough talks to Craig Clevenger

Can I start by asking how Dermaphoria came into being?
For me, the notion of memory in fiction is an extension of the notion of
identity. Where my last novel The Contortionist's Handbook dealt with the
external half of the equation - identity as social labels, roles, documents
and titles - Dermaphoria deals with the other half: our conditioning,
values, choices, and their repercussions - the internal part of identity.
As for my preoccupation with memory, and I can only paraphrase what
Jonathan Lethem said in his introduction to the Vintage Book of Amnesia,
that amnesia, as portrayed in fiction and film, is the best metaphor for
the experience of writing. An author staring at a stack of blank paper is
experiencing the similar distress of a person waking up in an empty room
with no notion of where they are, how they got there, or who they are.
However, Dermaphoria's origins originally had nothing to do with memory.
Its focus was on the drug - the extactogen, as I call it - this thing which
synthesized the feeling of human touch. I was interested in doing a story
about this for a very long time, taking something so fundamental to not
only our socialization but also to our survival as a species, and removing
the human element. What would happen?
The amnesia angle started as a joke, at first. While doing final edits for
the Handbook, I had created scores of continuity errors by virtue of making
the narrator's memory so precise. By citing dates and times and places so
diligently, I kept crossing wires in the timeline that would have otherwise
not been crossed, and correcting these created another problem - or two or
three - for each one I solved. I told my editor that my next narrator
wasn't going to be a savant, instead I was going to make him brain
damaged.
As the narrative for Dermaphoria unfolded, I hit snags that I couldn't work
around - unless my narrator were brain-damaged. So, I took that route,
thinking I was off the hook but, of course, I had created a whole other
series of headaches to tackle.

In both of your novels you deploy compelling first-person narrators to
great effect. What appeals to you about this device?
I've heard it said that first-person is the easiest form of narrative to
write, but the hardest form to write well. For me, there's an intimacy, an
immediacy, to the first-person narrative that appeals to me in fiction in
the same way that memoirs, authentic or otherwise, appeal to the general
public. It's like method acting, where instead of writing about a narrator,
I'm writing as a narrator. It helps me create a sense of authenticity with
a story. That said, I am looking at writing in the third person in the
future.

The structure of Dermaphoria is quite complex with the novel's narrative
essentially mirroring the re-fizzing synapses of Eric's drug-addled brain.
Did you always have this structure in mind?
I had the structure in mind from the beginning, yes, because I was going
for such a different style than the Handbook, I wanted to stay within a
story structure that I was comfortable with. In both cases - the Handbook
and Dermaphoria - I open with an inciting incident and spend the first two
acts, with a mixture of present narrative and back-story, recounting the
events which lead to that incident, thus having the incident serve
additionally as a second act climax. That leaves the third act as a
denouement to the first two, but also with a climax of its own. Again, I
stayed with that structure so I could liberate myself stylistically.
What made this more challenging than the Handbook is that Vincent recounts
the back-story to the reader when appropriate, but he has everything in his
head at once. Whereas Ashworth is piecing together the back-story in tandem
with the reader, so we experience it at the same time he does.
I actually wrote most of the third act in a mad sprint, having re-written
the first two-thirds of the story ad nauseam. I had so many open ends to
resolve that I couldn't commit to closing the story - though I did have the
events mapped out in broad strokes - until I had cross-checked everything I
had set up in the first two acts, i.e. all of the characters, their
whereabouts, and which ones were real and which ones were not.

Do you think fiction should have a moral purpose? And, if so, what do you
hope a reader leaves Dermaphoria with?
I'm not sure how to answer that, and I suppose I'd need some clarification
on what you mean by `moral purpose'. I'll say this: I truly believe human
beings are hard-wired for storytelling. We have evolved and progressed
because prior to the written word, cultures preserved their legacies by
creating myths and legends, passing down history from one generation to the
next. Stories have served us well, some without having a neat and tidy
lesson tagged onto the end, while others were created for the sole purpose
of teaching a lesson. In any case, the only reason any of these legends
survived, with or without moral lessons or history, was that people loved
hearing them over and over. They were compelling. I believe that fiction
can resonate with a reader and a culture at large on very deep levels, but
unless the story - and the storyteller - are compelling, then all moral
lessons and such are lost.
Somebody once asked me if I wanted my books to be significant works, at the
very least the kind that provoked thought and discussion among readers, or
if I were simply aiming to write entertaining beach reads. I said, `yes'.
Entertainment is not a dirty word, and I refuse to believe that
significant, thought-provoking stories and simply fun reads are mutually
exclusive.

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 196 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Clandestine chemistry and the LA underworld provide the atmosphere for this kaleidoscopic tale of lost memories and the heartbreak of finding them, from the author of The Contortionist s Handbook . When Eric Ashworth wakes in jail, he has no idea how he got there, or why. His only memory is a woman s name: Desiree. Released on bail and holed up in a low-rent motel, Eric starts to piece together his former life as a chemist at the centre of a desert drug ring with the help of a powerful new hallucinogen which simultaneously loosens his grip on the present. As the events of his past begin to emerge from the confusion of his fragmented memory, Eric must contend with a gnawing paranoia and the need for ever-increasing fixes - not to mention disturbing visits from an intimidating police detective, his former associate Manhattan White and the ominously named Toe Tag. As his grip on reality becomes more tenuous, past and present, reality and fantasy begin to bleed into each other, bringing this visceral, shifting novel of love and loss to its climax. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780007198498

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 196 x 132 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Clandestine chemistry and the LA underworld provide the atmosphere for this kaleidoscopic tale of lost memories and the heartbreak of finding them, from the author of The Contortionist s Handbook . When Eric Ashworth wakes in jail, he has no idea how he got there, or why. His only memory is a woman s name: Desiree. Released on bail and holed up in a low-rent motel, Eric starts to piece together his former life as a chemist at the centre of a desert drug ring with the help of a powerful new hallucinogen which simultaneously loosens his grip on the present. As the events of his past begin to emerge from the confusion of his fragmented memory, Eric must contend with a gnawing paranoia and the need for ever-increasing fixes - not to mention disturbing visits from an intimidating police detective, his former associate Manhattan White and the ominously named Toe Tag. As his grip on reality becomes more tenuous, past and present, reality and fantasy begin to bleed into each other, bringing this visceral, shifting novel of love and loss to its climax. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780007198498

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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers. Paperback. Book Condition: new. BRAND NEW, Dermaphoria, Craig Clevenger, Clandestine chemistry and the LA underworld provide the atmosphere for this kaleidoscopic tale of lost memories and the heartbreak of finding them, from the author of 'The Contortionist's Handbook'. When Eric Ashworth wakes in jail, he has no idea how he got there, or why. His only memory is a woman's name: Desiree. Released on bail and holed up in a low-rent motel, Eric starts to piece together his former life as a chemist at the centre of a desert drug ring with the help of a powerful new hallucinogen which simultaneously loosens his grip on the present. As the events of his past begin to emerge from the confusion of his fragmented memory, Eric must contend with a gnawing paranoia and the need for ever-increasing fixes - not to mention disturbing visits from an intimidating police detective, his former associate Manhattan White and the ominously named Toe Tag. As his grip on reality becomes more tenuous, past and present, reality and fantasy begin to bleed into each other, bringing this visceral, shifting novel of love and loss to its climax. Bookseller Inventory # B9780007198498

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