Synopses & Reviews
From the author of 2002's word-of-mouth phenomenon The Contortionist's Handbook
comes an atmospheric second novel set in the underworld of L.A.
Eric Ashworth awakens in jail, unable to remember how he got there or why. His only memory is a woman's name: Desiree.
Bailed out and holed up in a low-rent motel, Eric finds the solution to his amnesia in a strange new hallucinogen. By synthesizing the sense of touch, the drug produces a disjointed series of sensations that slowly allow Eric to remember his former life as a clandestine chemist. With steadily increasing doses, Eric reassembles his past at the expense of his grip on the present, and his distinction between truth and fantasy crumbles as his paranoia grows in tandem with his tolerance.
With vivid detail and elegant prose, Craig Clevenger has created a visceral world where divisions between love and loss, violence and tenderness, and fact and fiction prove to be entirely indiscernible.
"Clevenger's second novel (after 2002's The Contortionist's Handbook) opens with a classic grabber: an amnesiac man awakes in jail with a woman's name Desiree on his lips. Prodded by a pushy police detective, that man (his name is Eric Ashworth, he's told) must sift through the contents of his drug-addled brain to explain his only memory: 'A ball of fire rising from a flaming house. Nails melting like slivers of silent wax. Beams and shingles collapsing into a pile of burning dust....' Released on bail, Eric checks into a flophouse and attempts to separate his ongoing drug hallucinations from reality. To aid him in this quest he turns to the doubtful promise of yet another drug, a powerful hallucinogen known on the street as Skin, Cradle or Derma. Eric's trip toward understanding, as well as the reader's, twists through exotic visions that may or not be real. It's a long, painful process, but eventually Eric puts it all together and learns who he is and the terrible thing that he's done. This is a sometimes brilliant, heavily stylized novel whose psychedelic prose and labyrinthine story line will enthrall some readers and enrage others. At one point Clevenger counsels both Eric and the reader: 'Anything is possible and nothing is possible. They're the same thing.' Yes, that's it exactly." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Gonzo, wired psychodrama...that reads like something ripped screaming straight out of the unconscious....Gloriously shifty puzzle-fiction whose resolution is much less important than the kaleidoscopic journey towards it." Kirkus Reviews
Amnesiac Eric Norton wakes up in a police interrogation room burned from a meth lab explosion. As he tries to remember his past, his criminal employers and the police track his every move, both hoping to discover what Eric knows. However, Eric's confused memories are so entrenched in obscure drug-related street slang that even he can't make sense of them. After taking a mysterious new drug called "skin" a drug that synthesizes the sensations of touch Eric slowly begins to remember his life as a clandestine chemist and his relationship with an enigmatic woman named Desiree. But as Eric tries to piece together which memories are real and which are fabricated, he learns that finding your past can be just as painful as losing it.
About the Author
Craig Clevenger was born in Dallas, Texas, and raised in Southern California, where he studied English at California State University, Long Beach. Dermaphoria is his second novel, after The Contortionist's Handbook. He currently lives in San Francisco.