The Beautiful Dead End review by Michael Barnholden

The RAIN Review of Books, March/April 2004
Review by Michael Barnholden

What happens when we die? More specifically, when we take our own life? According to Hutzulak there is a short period of time between the moment of death and the moment of recognition of death on the part of the newly dead, when you get what you need, the necessary insight which could have prevented your death. The moment is outside of the temporal as there is no deterioration in the physical condition of the dead. It may be the lenght of time it takes to tell the story, or a mere second it takes for the metaphorical light to go on. There is a longer period between the time of death and the discovery of the body where the dead are guided to a local transfer station by other suicides who have not been able to move on. Your guide provides your final needs and provides spiritual guidance after a fashion.

This is a quasi-religious experience not unlike the western understanding of death. There is no longer any physical or emotional pain, and the psychic pain is resolved with a miniumum of struggle. You get to see what you have left behind as you come to terms iwth your own demise. You watch how others deal with your dealth and handle the aftermath. You literally find out who your firends are. Mostyly you come to terms as muchas is is ever possible, with what was and may still be your self. The basis of all self-knowledge is insight: without it there can be no learning, no growth. With the smallest piece of insight we can build a whole universe, a place to be and be "happy". Of course there are holes in the logic but this is fiction and the reason for the creation of this rented universe is the author's alone.

An intriguing, well-written tale of a lost boy, actually a manchild, who gets mixed up in a drug deal that goes bad and he is required to disappear after killing an acquaintance. The structure of the novel is an after-death detailing of the actions leading up to Stace's accidental drug overdose. Accidental in the sense than any serious druggie knows that mixing alcohol and pharmaceuticals is a risky procedure albeit a beautiful dead end. There are a few postmodern tricks: one that works particularly well is the complete lack of quotation marks. Often I found myself re-reading the changes between direct quotes and the characters' internal dialogue, to good effect. This is a quirky piece of writing with a distinctly noirish edge -- detective fiction where the body is that of the narrator whos is also the private investigator or detective. Tough minded and uncompromising in death, unlike in real life, our no-nonsense anti-hero becomes likeable and sympathetic where in life he was merely an instantly forgettable loser.

Michael Barnholden is the publisher and editor of The RAIN Review of Books. 
Copyright 2004 by Michael Barnholden