Matt Forney
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Down Where the Devil Don’t Go by Paul Bingham

Down Where the Devil Don’t Go is a remarkable achievement: the first fictional work that captures the zeitgeist of the Bush years.

Ah yes, you remember those happy days? The nauseating Baby Boomer leftism of Bill Clinton’s America has been hashed out to death by countless GenX prophets: Jim Goad, Mark Ames, Hollister Kopp, the list goes on. And while Dubya’s America was a continuation of Boomer degeneracy, it was of a decidedly different strain. In contrast to the slap-happy PC Stalinism of the nineties, the oughts were defined by the “silent majority” of right-wing Christian Boomers who thought shoving their heads into the sand would make the reality of America’s decline go away. The sly psychopathy of Clinton gave way to the bombastic stupidity of Bush, a man who sunk the U.S. into two pointless wars and tanked the economy just so he could bribe Latinos into voting for him.

To me, the defining moment of that era’s zeitgeist was when John Ashcroft covered up the exposed breasts of statues in the Department of Justice. Ashcroft, a man so pathetic that he lost reelection to a corpse, hid the statues from view because looking at boobies is sinful, a view that none of the Founding Fathers or traditional leaders before him would have held. No incident better elucidates America’s divorce from reality, a divorce only accentuated by the weepy response to 9/11, the militarization of the police and civil service (TSA, CBP, NSA etc.), and the election of a stuttering community organizer to succeed the smirking chimp.

For a blistering, dark look at this psychosis, read Down Where the Devil Don’t Go.

The latest release from thoughtcrime repository Nine-Banded Books, Paul Bingham’s short story collection reads like a mashup of a Coen brothers action movie with one of Andy Nowicki’s novels (indeed, there’s a glowing quote from Nowicki on the book’s back cover). Interestingly, though, my favorite story was the one that didn’t involve much action: “Population I.” The tale of a pretentious Barton Fink-esque “literary” author, the protagonist struggles with writer’s block and his resentment towards his nymphomaniac roommate Rose (a successful erotic novelist), all the while ignoring the truly interesting but declasse characters around him:

His arms are firm all over, and his skin has a delicate chocolate-brown pallor. We are friends now. Neither of us are homosexuals, but if I were sentenced to the penitentiary I would allow Jamal to fuck me; I would bend over and let him fuck me in exchange for protection and the right to touch his muscled biceps and to let him know that someone other than his mother cares for him.

Bingham’s prose has an understated energy, a slow-moving violence, like a fat guy lumbering over to you and socking you in the jaw. Stylistically, his writing has commonalities with the graphic intensity of Nowicki and Ann Sterzinger, though Bingham’s sensibilities are more cinematic; you can almost visualize the ultraviolence of “What the Dead Men Fear” and “I Feel Alright” happening on the big screen. Additionally, Bingham’s stories lack the Catholic/antinatalist undertones of those writers’ works. In his world, there are no lessons to learn, no transformations to be had, no gold at the end of the rainbow.

Stupid people do stupid things right up until the moment it kills them.

“What the Dead Men Fear” is the portion of Down Where the Devil Don’t Go that will probably receive the most attention. A tale revolving around a slutty, Taylor Swift-esque country singer, the story is teeming with hilarious viciousness at the contemporary country scene (Bingham has stated that he was in part motivated to write it by his hatred of Kenny Chesney) and riveting action:

The scene was tight, drifting, surreal. Anything Goes, said a neon sign. On the stage flanking the bar was Sheldon Anson V at his psychobilly best, backed by the Fucking Band and twisting out Brazil’s favorite song. “Redheaded Fuckslut.” It was his favorite because he hadn’t heard it in some time. It was his favorite because he’d never liked it, because absence made the heart grow fond.

“Protocols of the Learned Elders of Hollywood” is a blistering look at our advertising- and image-centric media. It focuses on Mort Schnellenhammer, a TV executive with a comically Mitt Romney-esque inability to understand the tastes of the people he’s trying to cater to. The story’s theme of dehumanization caused by media exposure reminds me of Network, while Schnellenhammer’s interactions with his misfit Palestinian protege Hasan are absolutely hilarious:

“God,” Hasan rhapsodized, still only dimly aware of Schnellenhammer’s presence, “is great, and Mohammed is an asshole. Look at him. Look at the fuck there on TV speaking bullshit for the CAIR this minute. They talk of Zionist oppression while they kill Christian children and collect the moneys for them, because it is a democracy and we are the minority too minor for anyone to care. God, I hate the fucks. They speak in platitudes and fuck democracy in the ass.

That’s the closest that Down Where the Devil Don’t Go comes to having a message: we’re all getting—and giving it to each other—in the ass without Vaseline. America is a great big mosh pit of venal retards seeking to exploit each other for stupid and petty reasons. Not only that, our society is so large in scale that no one person can be blamed in anything more than a minor way for the cesspool that it is becoming. It’s just one great big orgy of pointless cruelty, millions of morons adding up to a collective of Infinite Idiocy.

But hey, at least we can still laugh at it.

Bottom line, Down Where the Devil Don’t Go is a blisteringly good debut from Paul Bingham. If this is his first published work, I wonder what he’s going to be putting out in the future.

Click here to buy Down Where the Devil Don’t Go.

Read Next: The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster