Review of Matt DeBenedictis' CONGRATULATIONS! THERE'S NO LAST PLACE IF EVERYONE IS DEAD
Matt DeBenedictis. Safety Third Enterprises, $3 chapbook
Matthew DeBenedictis is a master of menace. And he’s also a master of humor. Perhaps, “Matt DeBenedictis is a master of menacing humor,” is the best way to put it. Or maybe he’s simply a master. And he is also awesome.
When I received my copy of There’s No Last Place if Everyone is Dead it was like Christmas all over again. The book was wrapped neatly in brown paper and tied with yarn. It was also sealed with a wax button marked “M.” The wrapping was stamped with “Congratulations!” and I immediately felt like a winner.
And when I broke the seal and dove into the package, I was a winner. The package contained not only the chapbook, but it also contained a packet of coffee, a pack of Yo! MTV Raps cards (which are AWESOME), and a CD (also sealed with wax).Christmas. All over again. Or maybe some Pagan cult thing. Hm….PRESENTS!
After dancing around with my new toys for a bit, I sat down with the chapbook and the menacing humor began. From cover to copyright to dedication to illustrations to stories to bio to back cover, this chapbook is a little miracle. DeBenedictis sets the menacing tone of these pieces fast and hard, creating characters and places that are dangerous and, well—menacing.
From the opening story Sugar Rooftop:
“The Russian sky looks like a cheap cigarette’s ash. Every morning, every afternoon the same dissonant air felt up our lungs and spit on our skin.”
To The Forecast is a Fortune:
“According to the satellite projections the form is of an axe, wielded, and as the minutes and hours spin by the sky hatchet turns red. Dead red. Blood red.”
The language of DeBenedictis is always sharp, original, and surprising. I often found myself spurting wows. And despite the dark undercurrents (and oftentimes overcurrents—is that a word?) in this collection, DeBenedictis always finds the vein in which to needle some humor.
The Tale of Gary F*ck-Nut had me laughing as soon as I read the title. But then my laughter cooled as I read the story of an abused son turned introvert.
“The pleasantries of Jesus’ birthday were put to bed with the forceful swing of a fighter plane.”
Despite the darkness, there are brilliant moments of uncomfortable comic absurdity, like the scene in which a teenaged Gary finally gets revenge on his postmortem father. It’s so shocking I couldn’t help but laugh, and it’s these little moments of dark humor that, ironically, make the collection truly shine.
Purchase There's No Last Place if Everyone is Dead HERE.
Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel FREIGHT. Visit his website at melbosworth.com