76 Pages, Poetry/Short Story
4 out of 5 stars
A collection of poems bookended by a one-act play and a short story, James Mirarchi’s Dervish is a surreal acid trip into an angst-ridden world nourished by psychedelic mushrooms. With dark, minimalistic writing in the spirit of J.G. Ballard or Chuck Palahniuk, Mirarchi has compiled a collection of edgy, in-your-face tales with a sharp aversion to fame and glamor, a stingy distaste of mainstream beauty. This is a commentary on a world where Heather Locklear is revered as a holy icon but Mararchi’s characters respond by considering themselves beautiful only when their faces are slashed and streaming blood.
The one-act play that opens the book takes place in a beauty salon, and the opening dialogue between a makeup artist and a customer begins as the customer laments, “The haunted house of my face is weathered and chips away from life’s temporal vandalism.” We know right away that these pages will be anything but conventional and Dervish simmers in its own contrarian existence, never quite satisfied with its isolation, never quite sure of what it needs to be and never bothering to care.
The poem “City” is a story of two competing gods, artists, who create two conflicting worlds: a mainstream culture vs. the radical opposition. It’s a statement on creating art that lands “within the rules” and is rewarded by the mainstream while unconventional and provocative art falls to the fringe. Acts like The Jonas Brothers fall into this safe, mainstream category while Mirarchi’s work would be created by a more radical, uncompromising god.
“Propaganda” is a violent war between lesbian punk rockers and a skinhead metal band, where the vanquished lesbian musicians haunt the metal-heads from the grave. But Dervish is not just a strange and imaginative world created for the sake of being creative. Its characters struggle amid themes of love, acceptance, beauty, lust and insecurity. Mirarchi calls himself an astronaut navigating the universe of imagination and he explores his themes like a spaceman struggling to escape from a black hole of despair. Dervish works. It’s fun to read – and it’s a very quick read…it took me less than an hour.
This avant-garde creation, with its short bursts of action and rapid-fire narrative, sent me to the Internet to learn more about the author. It’s strange, dark themes opened me to a new world: the world of James Mirarchi. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next.
Check out James Mirarchi at Author’s Den.
Reviewed by Mark McGinty, March 2010.