:: Article

fast food nation

By Alan K.


Tom Bradley, Lemur, Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2008

It is a truth, one that we don’t often admit to ourselves, but a truth nevertheless, that the characters we consort with do tend to rub off on one’s own quite insidiously. Such, of course, is not the case with Spencer Sproul, a fey, unworldly boy nurturing notions of mass murder while slogging his guts out in the clogged arteries of fast-food consumerist America. The scourge of capitalism and ravenous consumerism do, however, rub off on one’s character as Tom Bradley shows us with his Bizarro novella Lemur.

Bradley’s writing is minimalist whilst providing enough narrative nutrition to sink your teeth into. With Lemur Bradley offers up quite a menu of characters, a veritable stew of displaced oddities: Mahalia, an African-American sex-worker who plays kill-me games with Spencer; Raleigh Standish, a critic whose erotic triggers are a tad too widespread; and Spud, a festering bus-boy who catches the eye of the protagonist.

Spencer Sproul is not, could not, be an inherently evil person (if such a thing as inherent evil exists). Bradley has created a teenager who is so far removed from the world of tangible faces and things that he could not find his way back with even Anneka Rice on his arm. His attempts, and failures, at offing people are darkly comical, offensive and oddly touching.

It is when Spencer abducts an upper-class child musician wanting to do a John Wayne Gacy does the realisation dawn on him that perhaps there are other ways of inflicting pain on unsuspecting fat Americans i.e. embrace the beast he so desperately yearns to eschew.

Bradley’s prose is terse, his pace quick and chock-full of socio-political observations, cutting satirical switchblade swipes at how sex, marketing and murder are often, uncomfortably intrinsically linked: “he stares at reproductions of magazine ads in which images of people copulating and killing each other are subtly blended into the shiny bits of pop cans, SUVs, handguns etc…”

Only Tom Bradley would create a world where a malnourished, metal-faced meth-whore wearing little more than a Cow and Chicken t-shirt is crushed beneath a “tidal wave of cellulite” while attempting to rob a diner. A stampede of the dead-eyed alienation of contemporary American youth counter-culture by the machinations of monolithic marketing.

Tom Bradley’s Lemur can be read as social criticism; the novella raises far more questions than it answers, simply because Bradley gloriously shoves in our faces the cold hard facts of the material world.

Alan K. is from Dublin, Ireland. His work has previously featured in 3:AM, Dogmatika, Beat the Dust and one or two other places.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, September 18th, 2008.