Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein: The Pervert’s Guide to America

I love Warren Ellis’s style. I absolutely fell in love with Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan and the unreliable narrator from Supergods. He carries over the style to Crooked Little Vein, the first novel I’ve read by him, and it was a rather interesting experience. Unlike his graphic novels, I must say the book was an ultimately insubstantial but fun ride as a Pervert’s Guide to America.

It’s Ellis being himself – brash, loud, and horny. The language is the first thing that pops up from the pages. It’s like the dirtiest conversation you can have with your best friend. The most fun part of reading it was the absolutely zany situations and just how ‘normally’ it’s presented. Our narrator, the straight arrow he is, goes from one insane sexual situation to another. It starts off with a Godzilla bukkake show (yes, you read that right) to orgies where participants take bets on who gets HIV (this was hard to digest).

No, don’t even think about it.

The farce doesn’t stop there either. Our protagonists jump from one bizarre situation to another, offering up Ellis trademarks along the way. The casual conversation with the serial killer on the flight was amazing; the insane political family also comes to mind; the saline-pumping gay group is another. He mixes politics, power, and sex into drawing an intensely insane picture of America that’s both bizarre and somehow normal at the same time.

All this is done through the narrator who offers up a picture of a regular Joe who’s been through a lot. He’s shocked by all the bizarre situations he’s thrown into, reflecting our own views on the matter. He’s us in a way, and it’s great how Ellis uses him to ground an otherwise insane story. He’s used to highlight America’s “moral decay,” but by the end he’s numbed, and so are we.

That brings up America as a character. Ellis, a British author, offers an interesting look into the “heart” of America. Its big roads and lack of pedestrians, guns, casual outlook towards sex, including its weaponization and commercialization in the upper echelons of power and society are all well-represented. Media and control over it is also another theme, though it plays a more secondary role here. While it may seem controversial and negative at first, there’s a sense of unbridled optimism and faith in the media and the legal system. America, despite its “faults” (so to speak), is made up of its people, no matter how fucked up they may be. They’re good people, and the story reflects that feeling quite strongly.

As I wrote earlier, the story may feel light and ultimately insubstantial, I feel it works well as a strange pervert’s guide to America, showcasing both its highs and lows. The ending may feel rushed, but it also felt like a strong commentary on the Internet and its usage, showing how going viral can strip something of its virility.

Overall, highly recommended read if you’re looking for light reading and maybe some interesting insight into the ongoing trivialization and commodification of sex in America and, by extension, the world.

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