Safety of War, by Rob Benvie
Coach House Books, 300 pp, $22.95, softcover.
In Rob Benvie's Safety of War, a semiblind protagonist explores humanity's sicker side, the conniving ways people love and hurt each other, and the ways in which they find themselves fantasizing about sleeping with the dead.
Caught in a street protest and hit in the eye with a chunk of flying glass, David wakes up to a dismal hospital where his adventures begin. After the suicide of his father (consistently referred to in the book as The Father), David finds himself trying to talk his titillating younger cousin Lisa out of the same fate. Meanwhile, as he fantasizes about her, he's getting sexually involved with the eccentric Sarah Promise. Sarah is a woman who does not quite comprehend David's internal wars, and in a highly disjointed narrative fraught with poetic statements referencing everything from Rainier Maria Rilke to Homer, with various talk-show hosts in between, the story becomes tedious and somewhat hard to understand.
Sarah leads David to Chaos Farm, a devious domicile housing society's unacceptable: those pseudo-strange people who exist on the fringes. Here, they engage in necromancy and discussions of war, religion, and all things new age. "They think about God, it looks just like Oprah. God in slacks and a turtleneck. I get physically sick when they go on about that whole cozy start a backyard garden bull. These zombies with their Master Cards--don't even get me started about that whole self-help frigging... that sick empty crap, with all that money flying everywhere, it just makes me want to strangle myself."
Things get hairy, though, when the group somehow summons a monster from beyond who has been mistaken for The Father who haunts David, the devil, or, strangely enough, 1970s actor George C. Scott. No one is entirely sure.
Although he has a way with stringing phrases together, Benvie never really succeeds in developing any of his characters far enough for readers to care about their fate. But he does have a way with. Sentence fragments.