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I reread this one by way of audiobook Ray Porter s narration was wonderful I have no preference over text or audio, though Read listen to either they re equally awesome The Contortionist s Handbook is not easily categorized or reviewed It s a tremendous accomplishment, both in terms of research and delivery I never once questioned whether or not the information in this book was fact or fiction I simply enjoyed the ride Those of you that read for fun might find this book monotonous and boring, so I suggest skipping it Those of you who enjoy stylish writing that s full of heart, you should adore this little book.There is little to no action inside The Contortionist s Handbook Most of the novel takes place in Johnny s Danny s mind as he tries to beat a headshrinker and stay out of the nuthouse after his latest overdose It s a battle of wits, and you re hanging with the guy who s brought a gun to a knife fight The psychiatrist is definitely out of Johnny s Danny s league Witnessing Danny Johnny outsmart his opponent is big fun and never boring The writing snaps, crackles, and pops Craig Clevenger s prose can dice cantaloupe, if you can dig it There s no filler, no word out of place, no flowery fuckery, only tight writing you can bounce a quarter off.The love story in this book is handled well There s no insta love or love triangle bullshit, so if you re tired of those tropes in your fiction, you should enjoy this one Kyra and Johnny s Danny s relationship is noteworthy because we re dealing with two emotionally broken individuals who manage to find each other floating in the tumultuous sea that is life Let me be very clear, I hate romance, despise love stories of any kind, but this one worked for me Oh, and don t get me wrong, this isn t a romance book If anything, I d call it bleak lit fic Not really dark, but you shouldn t expect sunshine and rainbows In summation This is a helluva smart book When it first came out, Chuck Palahniuk said it was easily the best book he d read in five years Maybe ten I d have to agree with him Since then, there have been better books in the general fiction world, but not many The Contortionist s Handbook has stayed with me since I read it over a decade ago, and than withstood a reread In fact, I would go as far as saying I enjoyed my reread than my original experience, and I loved this book after that first pass Final Judgment My highest possible recommendation you know, if you dig this kind of thing. I don t know when, where or why I picked this one up, but I have had it sitting around for a long time I didn t read the synopsis or any reviews either I just picked it up one day and started reading.Glad I did.It was surprisingly intelligent Especially for a debut novel.The writing was clean and had some bite to it here and there.The characterization is what made it though Very well done.A solid 4 Stars. John Vincent is a master forger with eleven fingers, at least as many identities and debilitating migraines He follows a pattern over the years where he suffers from his migraines until he eventually takes too much medication and is hospitalized, often as a suicide risk.Vincent has made a life of fooling those charged with evaluating the psychological states of patients hospitalized for drug overdoses, and this time he plays a game of cat and mouse with quite a bit than usual riding on the outcome If you were to explain the plot of this book to me a month or two ago I would probably have passed The plot, however, takes a back seat to the outstanding characterization Clevenger shows in this novel great characterization and extreme amounts of research into document forgery mixed with a minimalist prose style made this book fast and entirely entertaining My only quibble is with the ending, which seemed a bit pat to me This was a fine effort and was well worth the time 4.5 5 Craig Clevenger has crafted something genuinely handsome, attractive to those who enjoy minimalist lit without junk filler A story that cuts right to the chase, gives you all the right details if you re an adult who knows how to read the fine print in transgressive fiction.I won t go into much detail about content, but it s a rare view inside the mind of a junkie genius who takes his extraordinary skills to the next level by supporting his habit s as a counterfeit papermaker, a faux ombudsman of legal identities Jam by jam, he trades his identity in for a new one, carefully crafting himself with well forged papers and airtight backgrounds But enough said, cause the story s for you to read, not for me to tell you Let me just preach this somewhere in the cesspool of dark lit, Bukowski s Henry Chinaski and Palahniuk s Tyler Durden copulated a rogue seed, and it ended up on Clevenger s keyboard. I only gave this four stars because I feel strange giving five stars to a book about a six fingered, drug abusing guy who forges identity paperwork on a constant basis, changing his name, address, and everything else to stay one step ahead of the psychiatrists, counselors, police officers, and drug running gangsters who all whether they know it or not want to figure out what this guy is really about Oh, and he has pretty consistent, ridiculously severe migraine headaches that usually end with him in the ER and or a mental hospital due to his routinely overdosing on varying illict and illegal pain medication.This isn t an uplifting book, nor is it intended to be Rather, Clevenger delves deeply into the complex, thickly woven layers of the heart, mind, and hopes lack of hope of a young man who has done whatever he needed to in order to survive, make people not notice him, and try to rise above the family and home life that he was born into It s an incredibly well written book, one that as a therapist I found myself fascinated by, as a majority of the time the main character is being evaluated and assessed by a running list of different emergency on call mental health workers He knows them, he knows their tactics, tendencies, rules, and approaches, and he stays miles ahead of them by tweaking his affect i.e expressions, hand movements and words to fit the mold of whatever person it is that he knows these interviewers need to see in order to release him There s a ridiculous amount of dead on psychological jargon, understanding, and explanation, some of it shaming to my profession and some of it speaking to the desperation we therapists have in a field wherein most of what we do seems to be slapping homemade bandages, two sizes too small, on gaping wounds two sizes too big Clevenger has done his homework, and it shows.There s a gritty, addicting reality to this character and this book I found myself coming back to it often because I found myself really needing to know what we going to happen to him next, how he would deal with it, what he would realize about himself or another person, and just how with the linguistic equivalent of a physician s delicate scalpel the author would crushingly communicate it to me It s a dark book, full of many unsavory characters and even unsavory situations, but I have no doubt that it communicates and quite effectively so a haunting reality that many people experience every day Reading about the main character s family and roots, I couldn t help seeing so many of the kids I work with in his descriptions, his father, mother, and sister, and what he went through and continues to.For some reason, I felt throughout this book that I was reading the modern equivalent of The Catcher in the Rye It s altogether different, but one can t help but wonder if John Dolan Vincent and Holden Caulfield aren t in fact attached in some Siamese way, limbs interwined and shared through some hole punched in space and time, their stumbling footsteps echoing one another s as they attempt to grasp hold of something real, beautiful, and true in a world that doesn t often seem to feature any of those attributes on a regular basis.Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club and Choke , is quotes as saying, I swear to God that this is the best book I have read in easily five years Easily Maybe ten years I get what he s saying, even if I can t quite being hopeful and optimistic than pessimistic readily agree with him It s a real book, and it s painful and touchable and terrifying all in the same moment.Recommended. Clevenger almost wound up as one of those guys I d wish people would stop prattling on and on about So brilliant Such a genius And I was so incredibly sick of hearing it Dermaphoria was what I ended up cutting me teeth on regarding his work, and I must admit, I found myself struggling through it and wondering what all the fuss was about.That didn t stop me from picking up TCH when I finally found a copy for under 40, or specifically, when MacAdam Cage finally pulled their heads out of their asses and decided to give the book another print run A movie deal and high demand can do that.Nonetheless, my expectations were considerably low, and so the following read pertaining to an identity shifting expert with an extra finger was that much of a pleasant surprise Palahniuk said, the best book I ve read in five years Easily Maybe even ten years, and I m inclined to agree.Clevenger spins a web of lies and identity crisis so complex, it s a wonder that the reader doesn t get lost in the details of how to fake a birth certificate or SR 22, but the author never shakes younot unless he wants to In TCH, we see John Dolan Vincent pitted up against The Evaluator for his freedom after an overdose, the story alternating between this battle of wits, tells, and intellect, and the seedy past of this protagonist of how he came use a deformity to his advantage It reads similar to Palahniuk minimalist with loads of factual information regarding the trade of forgery we ve seen this before with Jack and explosives in Fight Club , but unlike the one and two star reviews on where Clevenger is ostracized for being a rip off, it s obvious to me that the author has made this style his own within the neo noir genre.Simply put, I see the influence, but nothing that would make me believe Craig wrote this thinking, What would Chuck do And perhaps this is why his second novel turned out so different from his firstto distance himself from the name, the legacy, the style.I wish he would return to it.TCH is one of those books that when I put it down, I knew I d read it again at least eight times I can t recommend it enough. The protagonist of this story is a twenty something forgery artist with a photographic memory, a head for numbers, and six fingers on his left hand, and the story begins with him recounting the numerous times in his life he s overdosed on drugs and if you think that one sentence description is ridiculous and fascinating, you should definitely read this book, because that ain t the half of it John Vincent is the main character s real name, but the book is told as a series of chapters titled by various aliases John has assumed The narrative jumps all over the place from the present where a mental health specialist is assessing John as a suicide risk he OD d on pills to combat a recurring migraine , to various instances in his past with his abusive and alcoholic father, to his time in a juvenile delinquency hall, to his life on his own faking his identity The book describes in great detail how he goes about determining his names and obtaining fake driver s licenses and social security cards to the extent that I feel 70% confident I could pull off identity theft and fraud The dialogue and scenes between the mental health specialist and John in the present day are amazing, as the first person narrative describes how and why John answers certain questions the way he does to trick the assessor into believing he s not a risk Clevenger specifies which questions are asked and why certain answers are suspicious and certain ones are not very well researched The prose in this was one of my biggest pleasant surprises of the year it s quick and sharp and hard hitting, almost noir ish in a way as original a voice and narrative as I ve read in years The only issue some might have with this book is its apparent lack of a coherent plot most of the book proceeds in flashbacks and present day excerpts, but it doesn t feel like its leading somewhere And then in the last 20 30 pages, the author pulls you to the present and the book ends as if John has run out of relevant memories to share It feels a bit abrupt, but to me, it s consistent with the character and atmosphere of the whole book One of the entertaining books I ve read this year highly recommended. &Free E-pub ☋ The Contortionist's Handbook ↞ John Vincent Dolan Is A Talented Young Forger With A Proclivity For Mathematics And Drug Addiction In The Face Of His Impending Institutionalization, He Continually Reinvents Himself To Escape The Legal And Mental Health Authorities And To Save Himself From A Life Of Incarceration But Running Turns Out To Be Costly Vincent S Clients In The LA Underworld Lose Patience, The Hospital Evaluator May Not Be Fooled By His Story, And The Only Person In As Much Danger As Himself Is The Woman Who Knows His Real Name NOME Johnny alias Chris,Martin,Paul,Eric,Danny SEGNI PARTICOLARI 6 dita nella mano sinistraPROFESSIONE contorsionista o almeno quella che pi assomiglia alla sua straordinaria abilit Johnny ogni tot di mesi soffre di emicranie lancinanti,e ogni volta,per cercare di alleviare quel dolore atroce,che gli infuria nella corteccia cerebrale come una sega,finisce per ingurgitare un bel po di antidolorifici e magari pure bourbon e cos sempre la stessa storia Overdose ricovero in ospedale risveglio da mani guantate valutazione psichiatrica Per non rischiare di venire rinchiuso in qualche istituto d igiene mentale,a causa di tutte queste sospette , frequenti overdose,Johnny si costruisce ,ogni volta,una nuova identit ,curando ogni minimo dettaglio E un tipo furbo,John Dolan Vincent,e meticoloso,ha una mano precisa e un ottima memoria fotografica, capace di fabbricarsi ,o procurarsi,con vari stratagemmi,tutti i certificati necessari certificato di nascita,patente,nuovo indirizzo per la posta,tesserino del lavoro,n.di previdenza sociale,etc per ripartire da zero Sempre in fuga Sempre con la guardia alta Sempre a fare calcoli Di continuo Senza fidarsi di nessuno.Finch incontra Keara , una ragazza con occhi scuri,una cascata di riccioli castani,uno strano sorriso asimmetrico,un piccolo neo sulla clavicola,e altri tre sul lato del collo,come i vertici di una costellazioneed come se il grumo di freddo un poco si sciogliesse PS bella l immagine finale Resta un inquadratura di un ragazzo, seduto su un blocco di cemento,in mezzo ad un terreno pieno di erbacce,con una lettera e una busta azzurra colonna sonora Neil Young Sugar Mountain This book is the equivalent of that thousand yard stare you get when you stay up until seven in the morning and are sitting outside somewhere with a headache and three cigarettes left It s cold and it s dry, and it s unpleasant You don t like the main character, but you re fascinated by him And not just because Clevenger records in minute and plausible detail how the forger reinvents himself Each character and event in his life is cataloged and stared down with the same steely regard he uses to forge birth certs and steal social security numbers The games he plays draw you in, and the book s narrative hook events are relayed as the main character tries to manipulate a psychiatrist into letting him out of a hospital makes things almost unbearably tense My only qualm is that the ending isn t as satisfactory as it could be, but there are some nice twists and reverses, and as you ll burn through it in a couple of hours, my suggestion is to go for it I think it s out of print though, but you re than welcome to borrow my copy