Work Title: Blankety Blank: A Novel of Vulgaria
Work Author(s): D. Harlan Wilson
Raw Dog Screaming Press
Hardcover $29.95 (188pp), 978-1-933293-57-8; Softcover $14.95 (188pp) 978-1-933293-50-9
Reviewer: Todd Mercer
Vulgaria is an upscale suburban sprawl of McMansions and drunken backyard barbecues outside the monocultural metropolis that is Grand Rapids, Michigan. The hometown of President Gerald Ford and Amway is the largest city in the country to roll up the sidewalks at five p.m. each afternoon. Blankety Blank's alleged protagonist Rutger Van Trout is a figure of marrow-deep malaise who enjoys quoting the unofficial town motto, still the same in the 2030s: "You ain't much if you ain't Dutch."
Van Trout's powerlessness at home and his irrational excess as a weapon against ennui makes an amusing farce, however his central role is overshadowed by a scene-stealing chiropractor with superhero fantasies. The chiropractor's alter ego, "The Gamehater," dresses in cheesy costumes such as "...a skintight polyester getup covered in images of burnt Scrabble letters and Monopoly cards." When losing control of situations, this guy reminds himself, "Don't hate the player." He wrongly believes the neighbors haven't recognized him.
The nihilistic Mr. Blankety Blank is an acknowledged serial killer who introduces himself from door to door as a registered sex offender might have to murder on return visits. He's a television ratings darling, as the line between drama and life itself has long been erased. The bursts of utterly visceral gore he delivers are under-reacted to by profoundly desensitized, convenience-weary Vulgarians.