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Jon Konrath

Absurdist writer, technologist, and obsessive book hoarder Jon Konrath is the author of titles such as The Earworm Inception, Thunderbird, Summer Rain, and Rumored to Exist. He has been blogging at rumored.com since 1997.

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"Jon Konrath is a laugh out loud, rant of pure absurdist literature. Tons of pop culture references that will have you laughing or just saying, ‘What the hell did I just read.’”

– Beauty in Ruins

"Descend into a manic world of Kafkaesque insanity and paranoia. . . ."

– Ben Smith

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Thunderbird: Flash Stories

An Unnatural Obsession with Freak Show Performers

10/07/13

In talking about Thunderbird by Jon Konrath, I'm going to assume that my readers aren't familiar with Konrath's wild fiction (such as Rumored to Exist, Fistful of Pizza, Sleep Has No Master, or The Earworm Inception). After all, those already familiar probably bought a copy of Thunderbird the moment they heard it was available. Either that, or they're one of the odd people who swore a blood vendetta against Konrath after becoming familiar with his work and are busy in their basements plotting his untimely demise. One or the other.

For those who aren't already Konrath addicts like I am, let's just take a look at the opening section from "Hate-Fucking Shrimp Platters on Groundhog Day" (one of the stories in Thunderbird):

I hate-fucked a Long John Silver shrimp platter for Groundhog Day last year, slow and sexy, while a busload of Japanese tourist cheered me on, thinking this was some kind of American tradition like that thing where they run around with giant wooden penises and get an octopus to rape a schoolgirl. I never remember if the groundhog is supposed to see his shadow or not, but I now know you don't want to get that cocktail sauce in your peehole.

I guarantee that when most people read those opening sentences, they are paying attention.

Regardless, this is exactly the kind of wildness that I've come to hope for from Konrath, and Thunderbird certainly delivers. Konrath's style in his absurdist work (keep in mind that not everything he writes is bizarre–such as Summer Rain, an extremely soulful work of coming of age realism) effortlessly blends the normal with the profane, the mundane with the shocking and grotesque, the current state of the world with an exaggerated version that we hope could never be. Best of all, Konrath is damn good at it. I can't guarantee what someone will feel when they read Konrath's bizarre works, but I know they'll feel something . . . and they won't be able to look away.

Let's consider another example. This one, from another story in Thunderbird titled "Ralph Ravel and the Giant Hooves of Prophecy," shows that blending I'm talking about particularly well:

Like most Mensa members, totalitarian dictators, and Dominican left-handed National League relief pitchers, I had an unnatural obsession with freak show performers as a child.

When my brain reads the above sentence, it does flips. It seems like a rational list at the same time that it doesn't. Reasonableness is mixed with almost subconscious-based free association, yielding something that is neither sense nor nonsense. As I see it, the mind reacts to such a thing similarly to how it smacked by a Zen koan.

What is it about writing like that in Thunderbird that interests me so much? I keep coming back to the idea that the things we can see least clearly are the ones that are right in front of us. In order to truly consider the world that we've stopped paying attention to out of over familiarity, we have to twist it – exaggerate how absurd or shocking or disgusting it is. Only then can we accurately perceive it, and realize that our normal world is far more absurd and shocking and disgusting than we ever consciously realized.

I think it's obvious at this point that I'm pretty pleased with the stories I found in Thunderbird. They aren't exactly a revolutionary step in Konrath's writing, but they are fresh, new, and a hell of a lot of fun to read. If you haven't checked out Konrath's absurd work as of yet, then you really should – and Thunderbird is an excellent place to start. Frankly, one of the stories in the collection ("And So It Goes, Motherfucker") says it best:

The convenience store was actually a North Korean deli, covered with pictures of the three Kims and propaganda are hung over the bags of pork rinds and ring-dings. The food and drink, luckily, were not North Korean. They did have some pretty kick-ass cigarette lighters in the shape of Kim Jong Il, the ones where you click his arm and a butane flame shoots out of the top of his giant head. A fatbody Il lookalike, complete with dead Elvis hairdo and wraparound old lady sunglasses worked the register, reading a copy of Vibe and listening to Slayer's album Christ Illusion on a shitty jambox.

"What's the word?" I yelled to the cashier.

"Thunderbird!" he yelled back, pointing to a fridge case filled with malt liquor. Finally, a man of taste.

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