REVIEW: Happy Mutant Baby Pills by Jerry Stahl
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Jerry Stahl’s Happy Mutant Baby Pills is a hurricane of comedic and satirical horrors involving drug abuse, violence, manic lovers (including their manic sex lives), and ungodly revenge against the United States.
Stahl ventures unapologetically through the darkest imaginable places.
He boldly dives into the minds of hopped-up Lloyd, the heroin-addict protagonist, and Nora, his even more hopped-up girlfriend. In a way, I wish I had been on heroin with Lloyd and Nora when I sat to read Happy Mutant Baby Pills. Stahl’s social satire is not exactly a “pajamas-and-fireplace” kind of book. It is far from cozy, and diving in should require some serious psychological preparation. This is a hurricane few (sober) people can stomach.
The narrative focuses on Lloyd, a sucker looking for a writing career. He ends up as a copywriter for Christian Swingles, an online dating hub for the pure in heart, as well as job as a small print side-effect writer for prescription drugs.
Lloyd’s purpose is to condense the nasty, hairy, and sometimes-fatal side effects for the capitalist drug market.
In contradiction with his career, he shoots up an unholy amount of heroin. He establishes a quick and funny contrast between the effects of his heroin addiction versus the effects of acceptable prescription drugs. The comedy is at its strongest in Lloyd’s seeming lack of attention for the deadliness of heroin in shadow of his fixation on the big, bad, capitalist American monster. It sinks into some pretty gnarly places that are hard to stomach.
For instance, there is a recurring strand of jokes about Nora’s body, whose “purply” clitoris is “so large I wondered if she might be a hermaphrodite. It was shocking, hot, and National Geographic-worthy all at once.” Point blank — let it be known that this book’s humor isn’t for everyone.
But to counteract the rough and pornographic edges,
there’s enough here to be refreshingly funny
. In a “Prayer of Affirmation,” Stahl writes, “Just for today, help me not be who I really am.” There are several fun one-liners like this that offer a breath of “cleaner” air. One thing I particularly loved about the book is Stahl’s consistency of tone and motive from start to finish. The tale was unpleasant but never boring. Stahl’s structure effectively and excitingly builds to a conclusion that finalizes the story well without trying too much to have a “twist” ending. Amidst Lloyd’s wild circumstances, Stahl kept a strong hold on the character, making for an interesting protagonist.
Happy Mutant Baby Pills may be a bitter cup of tea, but I recommend it solely to experience the madness of Stahl’s writing. Somewhere between the “aha!” moments of this four-part story, I developed some disturbing fascination with drug abuse and social irrationality. There is a certain element of fun and mischief in reading something so daring and appalling. So if volatile love affairs, social extremism, and hysteric lunacy are on the agenda for a late-night read, this book is right to take off the shelf. A tip, however? It may be a good idea to shoot up first.
by Jerry Stahl