He Digs a Hole by Danger Slater
Harrison and Tabitha Moss are an average couple in an average house in an average cul de sac in an average neighborhood in an average town, living a mundane everyman lifestyle. But all that changes when Harrison swallows the seed from the strange “spleen fruit” that grows on the tree in his backyard and it doesn’t take long for things to get seriously fucked up. Danger Slater ramps the weird up to about eighty decibels when Harrison is moved to dig the titular hole, hearing a call that drives him to grind off his own hands and replace them with garden implements.
I’m not going to talk a lot about themes here because if I turned this into a consideration of thematic elements, it would be several thousand words long. But, while that’s not practical, it would be remiss of me not to talk about theme at all. All of Slater’s works are rife with theme and it seems to be one of his favorite things to play with. Like a dog with a bone, he takes a concept in his teeth and explores it from every angle, poking and prodding and digging to see what might be revealed, what twisted elements might evolve from individual concepts such as in this case where he plays heavily with love and relationships and individual meaning, of losing each other and oneself and, eventually, digging one’s way back to the surface of reality, hopefully finding the right path to walk toward self-discovery and redemption. But at the same time, Danger is in no way reliant on his theme to do anything except evolve the story and—in truth—that’s where the real magic of his brand of bizarro really shines through. It’s an intelligent story that finds us on unexpected tangents that keep us engaged and give the deep-seated impression that the author too is finding his way through this story, sometimes possibly just as surprised at the outcome as are his readers.
But the thing that really brings on the magic that often finds you sitting there with a smug little grin of shared knowledge on your face is the intentional practice of human imagining that Slater delights in. In the wrong hands, his approach could be considered a conceit of sorts, with authorial intrusions and speculative diversions that could serve to throw the story off track but in this case somehow, some way, serve to actually make the story, unifying the whole into the sum of its disparate parts. The intrusion of Danger’s voice into the narrative should—by the so-called rules of the game—be an annoyance and a distraction but serve instead as a welcome addition that is both expected and welcome in some inexplicable way. It’s almost as if you’re getting a wink and a nod every now and then, like he’s saying, “yeah, this is some serious shit right here, but really it’s all in good fun.” And it is. Huge fun. From the very first page to the last sentence of the book there is not a single moment that you’ll find yourself doing anything but grinning and turning pages.
Packed with metaphors and allegories and allegorical metaphors, He Digs a Hole takes us both literally and figuratively down the proverbial rabbit hole, leading us on a fantastical bizarro adventure of change and transformation. It is, oddly, a sort of coming of middle-age story of one couple struggling with a life and a relationship that have long become stagnant, hoping to find some release from the meaningless mundanity the dwell in. And find it they do, in the most horrific, often hilariously raucous of fashions. And you can find it too, right here in the pages of this remarkable little novel that could only have been born in the strange and beautiful mind of Danger Slater, one of the best bizarro authors in the business and arguably one of the best fantasists too.