Sunday, 15 February 2009

LIT (Fiction): Cooper Harringate - 'Shoot Off My Ears With Your So-Called Raygun'

The forth and final novel in Harringate's 'Dubious Red Auspices' quadrilogy focuses upon man's ability to controvert any and all evidence before his eyes if he finds the conclusion it leads to horrifying enough.

In the novel, protagonist Arsenio Hock steadfastly ignores the incipient invasion of his hometown by a headless and ursine alien force. At first the marauding interlopers are puzzled and amazed by his stubborn insistence that they "must be pulling his leg" and that "special effects these days really are somethin', I tell ya!" but later become thoroughly exasperated by Hock's cheerfully brickheaded blindsightedness. This culminates in a memorable scene at a local hardware store where, presented with a sample of the terrors and marvels of the boundless universe, he simply tells them, "That's all well and good but my fence won't paint itself."

Eventually, taking Hock's behaviour as a testament to the irrepressible, indefatigable and stupid nature of the human race and, blanching at the thought of having to go through this process of explanation again and again with similar results, they board their "craft that resembled flying party-rings" and leave.

Harringate's style is known and criticised for its long-windedness, with sentences sometimes running for entire pages or chapters and the appearance of commas welcomed like oases in a syllable Sahara. The author has often remarked in interviews that this was his intention, both to tire the reader into a kind of delirious fevertrance in which his words can overpower and permeate their brains "like fire-ants on a jam sandwich" and also to beat some kind of self-imposed target. It appears however that in this novel he takes such criticism, ordinarily met with murderous indignation, into account. Chapter four for instance, "The Eggs Benedict Of Fate", is comprised almost wholly of short outbursts apropos-of-nothing such as "HMM." and "INDEED!" where it is unclear whether it is Hock's musings that we are reading or those of the writer, his unchecked internal monologue fusing with the narrative in a kind of unintentional metafictional device. The final words of the chapter, "WHERE ARE MY GLASSES? DAMN YOU BARBERA." would seem to support the latter hypothesis.

Flaws and idiosyncrasies aside, 'Shoot Off My Ears With Your So-Called Raygun' remains an intriguing work and a fine addition to the canon of an author frequently described by his contemporaries as "owlish and malevolent" and "that guy, you know, with the hair". Harringate's legion of devotees will find much to like in his latest creation.


  1. I love the name cooper harringate - sounds like some Kerouac reading, hippie through back, west coast living out there author.

  2. As far as I know he lives in the Wine Country actually, with his wife and several Irish Wolfhounds named after editors he's had over the years, so you're on the right track.