Bedlam Explained

Dear World 

Please Kill Me, 

Well, it’s been a few months since I released the penultimate installment in my Collection of Things tetralogy, Bedlam: A Collection of Things. For those of you who don’t know, the idea of the A.C.o.T series was (and continues to be) the exploration of literary concepts via a collection of short stories—specifically aimed at the dissection of those independent concepts.  

Admittedly, the series has played an important role in my progression as a writer. Though some may find it debatable, each installment was meant to be technically better than the last. Despite that, I can’t really speak to what moves any particular person. Pertaining to praise, attention, and exposure, that hypothesis, thus far, has been proven true with each installment. In addition to that, they’ve also served the unintended goal of marking specific milestones in my career. I’ll get into those at some other time. 

The first, “Tourmaline,” explored the idea of humanity and escape. 

The second, “Red Matter,” is where I cooked up my particular brand of executing horror and suspense. Generally, it explored those concepts but truly dove-tailed with the idea of destiny: sought, achieved, and thrust upon. 

Bedlam was something special. Unlike the previous two installments, I was far more aware of what spilled from my artistic maw. It formed with a bit less insecurity and a hell of a lot more direction—so much so, in fact, that I wound up stripping the book down to its bare minimum. Gone were the poems, unnecessary exposition (which is why there’s no author’s note), and pretty much anything else besides the absolute necessities. The intent was to write something unapologetically impactful, that embodied its premise. As you may have guessed, the aim of this go-round was chaos: traditional, existential, personal, fantastical, and satirical. 

Although I hold a specific pride in Bedlam, I think that I may have overdone it a tad. Not to say that I would change a word, but in retrospect, I may have been a little heavy-handed without leaving much for the reader to go on. In lieu of an Author’s Note, which I’m far too distant from to write earnestly, I’d like to extend a different kind of olive branch to anyone who’d like a taste test before setting down for the meal. If you bear with me, I believe you’ll have a bit more insight as to what the hell is going on and what exactly I had in mind while piecing this tormented beauty together.  

Grab your coffee/vodka (coffee & vodka?) and buckle up for a trip into this writer’s mind. 

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” 

For lovers of classic plays (if not then think of the Lion King), you’ll probably recognize this quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Prince of Denmark. I’d read the play in school and was always enamored by the sense of Evil vs Evil.  

Though his uncle’s evil was apparent (killing the king to acquire the throne) Hamlet’s was altogether more nuanced and tragic. He was an unwilling heir to a tainted throne, destined to continue an obligatory war he was tethered to by blood. Due to that (and the fact that it’s an awesome quote), it felt right to borrow the line for use as a preface to Bedlam. In a sense, we explore some of the same terrains, across six independent stories, with modern sensibilities. It was the most I was willing to give, without spoiling what came next.  

The point: There are NO heroes in this book. 

#NoSpoilers 

The Killer Awoke Before Dawn 

Yes, boys and girls, the infamous first story, where the first line “He wiped the blood from the knife with a sock, that he would later use to please himself.” Despite being one of my all-time favorite openers, I understand how it could turn some people off. My thought process was fairly innocent. You see that sick-ass cover. You see the word “Bedlam” in distinct and distorted font (you Google “bedlam” and read the definition)… It felt like I owed a debt to every reader’s curiosity. 

Though Part One, which I’ve shared on the site along with Part Two, is convincingly realistic and possessed, it should be known that this is a monster story. MONSTER STORY. For those of you who couldn’t quite stomach the possibilities, I’ll clear it up for you now—if you can make it past that first section, you can get through the rest of the book with relative ease. The intent was to draw the reader in with something unexpected, rarely done, and ballsy as F**K. Funny enough, even those that had to skip Part One, have expressed a level of respect for the story-telling. I guarantee that if you read it to completion, it will all make a little more sense. Trust me. 

*strokes cat* 

*laughs maniacally* 

Ręka 

This has thus far been one of the more popular stories, something that I attribute to its fair level of accessibility. Taking a cue from the old magic monkey-paw trope, this story follows a young man who inherits a curse that gifts him anything that he desires, at a deadly cost—should he abandon his responsibility to it.  

The “chaos” here is a bit more self-evident (as it’s impossible to know what will happen next) but plays like something of an adventure/coming-of-age story. In some discussions that I’ve had, I was informed of some dark-parallels to Aladdin. Don’t worry, no one jacks off with a bloody sock in this one. 

Hung 

Ever have a bad dream that you were drowning or running from an unseen force? This is pretty much the literary embodiment of that feeling, seconds before waking up and discovering the actual parallels within your own life. We meet our protagonist in an unimaginably horrid situation that forces him to confront his demons, all the while life slips from his grasp.  

This story pays a bit of homage to Sam Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” in that we find two characters discussing some existential crises in an isolated situation, where the only escape is truth, acceptance of self, and the fragility of our mortality. It takes the idea of being “saved” and turns it all on its head, with quick-witted dialogue and enough attitude to make your favorite late-night animation look like a sock-puppet show. Keep in mind, there are NO heroes in this book. 

Fire on the Front Lawn 

This one actually began as a flash fiction piece, that I intended to pitch to a few sites, in promotion of the book. After it was written, I loved its satirical take on a fictional (*cough*) situation and a man of power, who’s knowingly aloof to the effects of his presence and how his decisions impact his subordinates. You can check the story out on my site if you’d like. However, I believe that it works best as a buffer between the more fantastical elements of the preceding stories and the direct realism of the two that follow.

Sidenote: Don’t @ me with complaints, if you recognize the real-life counterpart. 

The Legend of Fat-Baby Hopkins 

I would argue that this is the hidden gem of the book. Nicely nestled toward the end, this blast from the past is a coming-of-age story (a counter to Ręka) that takes place in a Southern-town toward the end of the 1960s. Unlike the stories that come before, this one keeps things as close to 100% as I could possibly write and spawns from a few family tales, I’d been hearing for all of my life.  

For anyone wondering “Where’s the cultural insight in this damn thing,” I direct you to this simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming peek into what life was like for a young man (13) at the end of one of America’s most tumultuous decades and the beginning of his blossoming sexuality. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You may even learn a thing or two that you never knew. What do a new-teen, a pimp, and racial tension all have in common? This story and a damn good ending. 

Boothe 

Easily, the closest thing to autobiographical as I’m willing to get, this story takes its inspiration from the expansive work of the legendary Charles Bukowski—specifically the stories involving Henry Chinaski. I’ve long been obsessed with the idea of hedonism and, from the very beginning, sought to create a character as flawed, earnest, and hilariously demented as some of the most despicably engaging characters around. *Drumroll please…* “I give you, Andre Boothe.” 

Like “The Killer Awoke Before Dawn,” this story strives to push the limits of what the reader can stomach, and uses the tool of loathsome behavior to introduce a protagonist who is not the most heinous thing in his own story. We delve into the topic of mortality (a clear through-line in this book, along with varying forms of chaos) to wrap things up in the same way that they began: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” It’s good for a laugh and, if you let it, it may just open up your mind to some new ways of understanding the world at large.  

 

So, that’s my spiel. Read it. Don’t read it. Doesn’t matter. The only thing that I really wanted to do was to ensure that I gave this book a fair shot amongst the “quick to judge and cast away” sensibilities that run rampant in our culture. Do I think it’s the perfect book? Probably not. Though, it was never intended to be. Like the others, this is just another piece of the puzzle. If you’re willing to read about it, then I can all but guarantee that you’ll love the living hell out of the actual thing. Or rather… the Collection of Things. 

If you have read it, I invite you to like, share, comment, and subscribe.

Happy reading!

Until Next Time,

Antwan Crump


Also available on Google Books.

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