Is Evenson’s LAST DAYS a horror version of Waiting for Godot?

I finally got myself a copy of Brian Evenson’s LAST DAYS, a book that had been out of print for a while.

While reading it I was struck by how much it reads like a surrealist play. The dialogue is quick and witty, reminiscent of plays much more than dialogue. Add to that Evenson’s style in Last Days, which is very minimal. No lengthy descriptions, just a quick laying out to set pieces and then the witty dialogue.

Granted, the subject matter is really dark – the protagonist, a detective named Kline is abducted and made to solve a murder in a cult that worships mutilations. Kline himself is selected because at one point in his past a criminal chopped off his hand with a cleaver. Kline cauterised the stump on a hot plate.

Here’s an example of the dialogue:

“Aline is dead,” Kline said.

“Aline is dead?” said Ramse, his voice rising.

“Is that possible?” said Gouse. “How is that possible?”

“Or not,” said Kline. “Maybe not.”

“Well,” said Gous. “Which is it?”

“What did you say about Aline?” asked the bartender.

“Nothing,” said Kline.

Oh, God,” said Ramse, shaking his head. “Dear God.”

“Aline is either dead or not dead,” said Gous to the bartender.

“Be quiet, Gous,” said Kline.

“Well, which is he?” asked the bartender. “Dead or not dead? There’s a big difference, you know.”

“That,” said Gous, stabbing the air with his stump. “Is what I intend to find out.”

“You don’t think there’s a big difference?” asked Ramse.

“Ramse,” said Kline. “Look at me. Why am I here? What am I investigating?”

At this point in the book, Kline is convinced that there hasn’t actually been any murder and that he’s been brought in to do something else, but no one will tell him what. He’s not allowed to visit the crime scene but gets to see a recreation of the scene.

He has lengthy conversations with the people in the cult but they are often not allowed to tell him anything. That is, unless he pays his way higher up into the cult by cutting off parts of his body.

The books is really gruesome in parts. This is, without a doubt, a horror novel. But it is also a sort of existential and sarcastic conversations and situations of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Has anyone been killed? What is Kline really doing in the cult?

Whatever it ends up being, I’m really liking the book.

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