Tales of Woe
by John Reed
Imagine, if you can, what it would be like if Chuck Palahniuk was paid to write the novelization of some as-yet-unreleased Mondo movie--Modern Mondo Cane perhaps; or Global Blood and Guts. A dark and deeply disturbing examination of injustice and misery the whole world over. That's a pretty fair assessment of the book Tales of Woe by John Reed.
Over the course of approximately 200 pages, this volume covers the gamut from the strange (a man caught fornicating with his favorite bicycle) to the sad (a UNICEF employee gunned down for unknown reasons); from the twisted (a lucha libre serial killer) to the terrible (a newborn's brain consumed by a baboon). Each true-life tale is different from the other except for one respect:
There are NO happy endings here.
In fact, this entire book is dreadfully depressing, and so it's a good thing that the stories within are kept short--bite-sized morbid morsels that can be taken one or two at a time, to leave you in a grey-blue funk for the remainder of the day.
WARNING: Exceeding the recommended dosage may be hazardous to your mental and emotional health.The concept of a book with the power to depress you to dangerous extents is an odd one, and it begs the question: Who is the target audience here, anyway? This is especially confusing given the fact that this book is published by MTV Press, the publishing branch of the "music" channel that these days caters almost solely to spoiled attention-deficit tweens and an unimaginable and possibly-mythical audience that gets its rocks off watching the douchebaggery of The Hills and The Jersey Shore. Not quite the gothically disturbed sensibilities that Tales of Woe would seem to be aimed at.
The back cover blurb relates the experience of reading this to that of Greek Catharsis: by witnessing other people suffer, you feel better about your own life. I suppose there may be some validity to that, but schadenfreude (to switch cultural references) is such an unattractive trait, isn't it?
The titular tales are clearly and deftly expressed, and it's quite a handsome little package: a slightly-larger-than-paperback hardcover with white and red text printed on slick black paperstock, punctuated by occasional illustrations provided by some deeply-disturbed outsider minds.
Torn as I am about this book, I must admit that it did affect me...so that must be saying something. I have a feeling that, much like my VHS copy of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Tales of Woe will have a long and lonely shelf life, leering at me and hungrily licking its lips, just daring me to partake in it again. And, just like with Henry, I will occasionally succumb, only to feel guilty and dirty in its wake.
Tales of Woe drops TODAY, so the interested should rush out to the local bookstore, or click here to order.
Woe is me.
Want a second opinion? See what Enter the Man-Cave, From Midnight, With Love , and Dollar Bin Horror thought about the book.