The Burning Women of Far Cry is something like a cross between a George Saunders yarn and a David Lynch film, coached into book form by Thorne Smith.
Rick DeMarinis’s masterpiece is as grim and unflinching an existential portrait of life as Nausea, or The Stranger, or Woman in the Dunes—except those books don’t also make you laugh out loud. If David Lynch had written a novel instead of making movies, it might have looked something like The Burning Women of Far Cry.
We have dream sequences involving dwarfs, and the amputated limb as a key plot point, but underneath it all is the presentation of an unheimlich world much like the one in Blue Velvet: just beneath the veneer of white-picket fences and smiling housewives and industrious businessmen lurks a ghastly hell of monstrous inhumanity.
Innocuous artifacts of urban life take on sinister overtones—the “Gopher Cones” that the Red Devil Pushcart Vendors sell, for example, or the motif of the jazz standards that Gent and Jack play in their basement jam sessions. But at the same time, it’s hard not to picture The Simpsons throughout this story, especially, for example, the voice of Troy McClure narrating the more absurd moments.
The most prominent element of The Burning Women of Far Cry is the inexhaustible imagination driving the writing.
Throughout fifteen books of top-shelf fiction, perhaps paramount among them, The Burning Women Of Far Cry, Rick DeMarinis has yet to concoct a single character whom I have not craved to meet on a neighborhood street and either kiss or kill and then spill into either the front seat or trunk of Rick’s ol’ ’71 Monte Carlo for the ride of a “lifetime.” Nor has he yet written a single unmusical, unimaginative, un-page-turner-burner of a paragraph, of dialogue. Or inscription! (Verbatim, from Under the Wheat): “for Paul—my partner survivalist: it’s the bottom of the ninth, see, two outs. We’re trailing 1-0. Gooden is on the mound, and he doesn’t like Polacks or Dagos. The count is 0 and 2. The bat feels like a railroad tie in your hands. The stands are filled with collection agency thugs. Gooden uncorks a 99 mph fastball. It looks like an albino BB. This is it. You take a big cut, and… and… (next page)… 590-foot drive into the Hudson River! Your buddy, Rick (The Bambino) D. 10/21/86.”
— Paul Zaryski: Poet, Lyricist, Spoken-Word Recording Artist (Steering with My Knees)
The world in Rick DeMarinis’s fiction is a sad, playful, strange—and oh yes—funny place. And his novel The Burning Woman of Far Cry is ground zero in DeMarinis-land. The story of a family, in all its bubbling goo, written in sentences that dance you into the whole beautiful disaster. Then they whisper: “Come to Mama.” They say, “Open your arms wide if you dare.”
— David Allan Cates: Author of X Out of Wonderland and Tom Connor’s Gift