Through the dust streaked lenses of your Zeiss binoculars, you see a man and his companion, limned by the light of their cookfire, huddled together against the coming darkness of atomic night, their dinner roasting on a spit before them. Even from your hilltop perch you can plainly see that they are not afraid. Something in the way they hold themselves, the way they look at each other, tells you they have braved barren wastes, vanquished untold horrors, and confronted prewar traumas more terrifying than any mutant or Mad Max reject could ever hope to be. And they did it all together. You know they have each other and you know they know that’s all they need. But at this distance, it’s impossible to tell whether you are seeing the conclusion of A Boy and His Dog or the end of Delicious Tacos’ newest novel Finally, Some Good News.
Delicious Tacos truly needs no introduction. Author of Hot Naked Tits, The Pussy, and his eponymous blog, Tacos has been called the second coming of Bukowski so many times that doing it again here makes me feel like a hack. But the comparison is apt. Not since Bukowski has an author so eloquently put to paper the male mind and that horrible treadmill of lust, fulfillment, and regret that so often constitutes a man’s life.
In his latest outing, Tacos tackles several new topics including sex tourism, international terrorism, advertising, and nuclear annihilation. According to the novel’s Amazon page, it’s the story of how “two bird watchers survive a nuclear holocaust.” Despite venturing into parts unknown, Finally, Some Good News retains the spare yet evocative prose that Tacos is known for. There are no “libidinal flicks” of the eye. If a Tacos character checks out a girls ass he checks out a girls ass.
The most compelling (and harrowing) chapters of the novel are not those that contain Grand Guignol grotesqueries of the postapocalypse, but rather those that force the reader to confront the very real terrors of the present. Office work. Drugs. Meaningless and degrading sex. The chapters come fast and hard. Trips to the Orient cut to vignettes of life in contemporary LA that cut to nightmare images of flame deluges and screaming skulls, all of which culminate in a romantic fireside dinner in the ruins of Ellen and Portia’s Stately Moroccan Hideaway in the final few pages of the novel.
Which brings me again to A Boy and His Dog. Based on a series of stories by science fiction author Harlan Ellison, L. Q. Jones’ 1975 film A Boy and His Dog chronicles Vic’s search for snatch in the irradiated wasteland of a bombed out America. Vic is aided in his quest by Blood, a telepathic sheepdog.
But where Ellison et al.’s Vic is unflinchingly brutal in his pursuit of pleasure, Tacos’ protagonist seems to exist in a state of capital “R” Romantic agony, especially before the bombs begin to rain down from on high. He is resigned to the fact that, despite his travails, he will never be able to live out the American Dream with Marcy “the one hot girl in the office” Pendergrass, and instead seeks solace in the arms of Asian whores and coked up single mothers. The differences between Vic and the hero of Finally, Some Good News perfectly illustrate why the two stories must end in the way they do.
For Vic, there is no hope. The society he lost in the great conflagration would have given him everything he now craves: sex, comfort, stability. Now he has to hunt for all three. For Tacos’ protagonist, the world he lost was the world of the hunt. Do you want money? Work for it. Do you want sex? Work for it. Do you want to be happy? Fucking work for it. Work until you forget why you started working. When the bombs fall in Finally, Some Good News, there is a very real sense of liberation. The work finally stops. Life comes back into focus. And this is why the concluding pages of Finally, Some Good News are so much more tragic than the end of A Boy and His Dog: in A Boy and His Dog the nuclear holocaust stripped men of their decency, in Finally, Some Good News the nuclear holocaust gives it back.
And so we end where we began; crouched atop a hill playing voyeur to an unsuspecting couple in the dying light of an angry red sun. It’s getting harder and harder to make out the details of the scene below. You hope it’s a dog on the spit, but in your heart you know it’s a beautiful girl.