One review is by an avid fan of the Western genre, Matthew Revert over at “Clockwork Father“:
“I went into Jordan Krall’s latest novel, Fistful of Feet, with a certain bias. I am an avid fan of the Western, be it the traditional Hollywood kind or the Spaghetti kind. This same bias could have ultimately worked against it however, if it wasn’t pulled off very well. It might have fallen into a Western pastiche, stealing the associated aesthetics and bastardising them superficially. Fistful of Feet doesn’t do this. It is a triumph and clearly written by someone with a deep respect for everything a Western stands for. The characters one would expect to populate a Western abound; the mysterious stranger, the busty brothel owner, the town crazies, a corrupt sheriff, hardened cowboys, gamblers, whores and storeowners. They’re all touched upon, and touched upon beautifully. Wrap this up in a gooey, Bizarro shell and it makes for a wild, touching and unforgettable ride through the dusty landscapes of a surrealist hell.”
“The story follows the archetypal lone wanderer, Calamaro, a rough and tumble stranger with many mysteries following behind him (my favorite mystery by far is the wooden donkey he drags along, which holds many secrets of its own). Calamaro drags himself to the local brothel in the small town of Screwhorse to set himself up with a room, but of course, as the genre demands, nobody’s comfortable with the new stranger in town (save a madam with a heart of gold and a few others). From there, things get perverse and hilariously wild, and that’s good: Krall is at his best when he taps into the reader’s prurient interests. This book is delightfully filled with sexual depravity and otherworldly references to unspeakable acts. The descriptions of the various delights at the town’s whorehouse are alternately stimulating and grimace-inducing, and that’s exactly how Krall holds the reader’s attention. A careful balancing act of alien starfish and four-footed prostitutes on one side with all the classic tropes of the old Clint Eastwood films on the other.”
If Zerostrata was a tea, I would call it “bracing, with a hint of undeniable sweetness.” I would drink it on Wednesday mornings at work to make me feel on edge with anticipation of the day to come, and awaken me to the possibilities while simultaneously clearing my sinuses. But Anderson Prunty’s Zerostrata is not a tea – it’s a book – and a damn good one.
Zerostrata follows the story of Hansel Nothing as he returns to his childhood home in an effort to find himself and give his life some sense of meaning. He has no memory of where he’s been for the last decade or so. In a normal story, the plot would quickly become a tiresome cliche in which the focus is getting back lost memories, but in Prunty’s capable hands, the story stays firmly planted in the present – a present where a beautiful girl runs naked in the rain and a mysterious therapist named Doctor Blast prescribes a strange series of events that shake Hansel Normal’s world up completely.
One of the best things about reading Zerostrata is the juxtaposition of bizarro humor and strange events with a real sweetness. Sure, there are gang members who make the world’s most delicious salad from their own flesh, and liquid-like airspace complete with magically mobile trampolines to keep falling victims safe for their therapy, but at its core, Zerostrata seems to be a love story. Not in the traditional sense, but in the sense that once we find the right person, nothing else matters outside of that, no matter how difficult or mundane. There is a beautiful scene which I will not ruin for you involving raindrops toward the end of the book that contains a monologue I may ask Prunty for permission to use in my wedding vows some day. That’s the kind of experience this book gives a reader – being carried through the strangest of places, only to come out on the other side and find some sort of magic.
This is a quest story where the protagonist doesn’t know what the ultimate goal is, and as it is revealed to him, the reader sees it as well. That conceit alone makes this truly worth the read; highly recommended.