I’m From Electric Peak by Bud Smith
Aristically Declined Press, 2016
111 pages – Artistically Declined Press (book will be released soon)
I don’t normally write book reviews like this. I usually try to craft something poetic, some amalgam of what the book has stirred up in me and what I’ve learned about how books work. This is just a guy saying what he did and didn’t like about a book, which seems more appropriate given the tone, given the person writing the tone.
So, Bud Smith’s a wonderful transcriber of humanity and this is an okay book. I liked his previous novel, F250, more. It was free-wheeling and salt-of-the-earth without making it sound like some kid writing it because he helped his uncle load hay or shop at Farm & Fleet one weekend. It wasn’t necessarily a book about anything except trying to split the difference between a fun life and a good life. Nothing complicated, but the same thing could be said for Van Halen, and they’re fucking Van Halen.
Bud does really well when he doesn’t really have a point. He needs that open space, those 200 or so odd pages to explore, to let a conversation happen between a bunch of people who know there are worse things than the milk in the fridge going bad. I’m From Electric Peak weaves around this sort of idea. It’s kind of about too many things but also not enough things. That’s the sonofabitch of life, really.
This is a murder-fueled romance road story, a Wild At Heart love tale, if it’s anything. The narrator kills a girl’s parents so he can run off with her. It’s interesting how early we get all this, because I’d think most stories would lean on the lead up, the pondering, the Crime and Punishment aspects, and then deliver the murder as the pay-off. Instead, he just kills them and they go. I’m convinced this was the right thing to do even though I know it’s not, like pulling up to the second window of the drive-thru and wanting your food before you order it. Bud’s operating in the world as it should be, and good on him for doing it.
We were seventeen. She had a secret decoder ring that opened up. Inside, over the code breaker, she’d pasted my photo. I worked at Fried Paradise dropping the breaded chicken into the grease. They’d sent me to the Mayweather Home because in a note passed across the auditorium, I’d written that I wanted to blow up the high school with a fertilizer bomb.
Love; all of it for love. Tell it to the judge.
The narrator, Kody Green, and Tella Carticelli—Teal Cartwheels, as he calls her—go all over the damn place, so it’s weird that I don’t feel as if the book reached its hands out the window and grabbed enough as it went along. It’s oddly introspective, which works great—in theory, so don’t try writing this at home, guy in backwards white hat—in F250 when it’s just some dude doing manual labor and trying to get a couple different girls to bang him. The introspection here is a heart burning too hot for too long, and as the book keeps charging forward by following up a deep, singular feeling with extreme actions, we know better than to try to hold that heart.
It’s a tight center with spastic, fuzzy edges. Maybe that’s the point though, to show that we move in relation to our love, so fuck breathing-in and holding something in the world, being held by something in the world if our love is simply sat right down beside us. There’s nothing more to desire.
The best parts are when Kody and Tella get to talk with other people. Bud does dialogue and supporting characters like no one else. It’s like if a semi-professional James Dean impersonator wrote The Simpsons: quick, cool, and just the right amount of self-aware. Here’s what happens when they end up in a part of Elvis’s house they shouldn’t be in:
“You can’t be in here,” said a man in a black suit behind the door.
A security guard was sitting on the bed.
“You’re in here, sir,” I said. “Let us take a peek.”
“No,” he stood, ushering us out. I asked him for his name. “You don’t get my name,” he said, sharp. “What would you want to have my name for?”
“For? Oh, just for reference. In case I found your boss around here.”
“My boss is dead,” he said.
“Mine too,” I said. “I shot him Tuesday.”
Teal tugged my shirt. She was pulling hard. My face got red. The old fat security guard and his bushy sideburns was coming closer.
“What’s your name, son?” he said.
“Call me the breeze,” I said.
Bud writes so damn fast that if I wait another couple of months, there’ll be another book of his to read. And I’ll read it, because even if I don’t fully dig it, there’s nothing like the charm of watching a man dictate his creativity to the world in real-time.
I’m clearly lukewarm on this outing. And that’s okay. You might be into I’m From Electric Peak, the misadventures of young love, the true-to-heart capture of how a mind in heat works and unworks itself into different funks. This is a nomadic daydream, and even when it felt too ephemeral, I admired the journey, the car that runs on heartbeats.