:: Article

Like a Prayer

By Axel Taiari.

staygod

Stay God, Nik Korpon, Otherworld Publications 2010

Nik Korpon‘s first novel, Stay God, feels nothing like your average debut. From the very first sentence – “Someone stabbed the sun”– all the way until the very last period, Stay God reads like the maniac work of a compulsive, obsessive writer who has been spilling ink in total secrecy for the past thirty years and then decided to share his jokes and heartbreaks with the rest of the class, blowing everyone away.

Stay God is a neo-noir, drug-fueled love story set in Baltimore. The book follows the rollercoaster life of Damon as he stumbles through his day-to-day, his relationship with Mary, dealing white and brown out of his second-hand store, outrunning his boomerang past, fending off hallucinations, missing Mary, dodging trench-coat-sporting hedge-clipper wielding Twins, badmouthing unsavory ex-boyfriends and last but not least, pepper-spraying his conversations with comic book nods and references to bands you should really, really listen to.

I would give more away, but that’d just ruin the fun, and let’s be honest – doesn’t that sound like buckets of it already?

If you are unfamiliar with comic books, or have lived in a cave for the past decades and never heard of Depeche Mode, fear not. It never feels gimmicky or shoved down your throat. While the pop culture followers, film aficionados, music nerds and comic book geeks will appreciate the winks and nudges, what truly matters here is the interactions and comebacks that occur between the characters as they namedrop and argue. An in-depth chitchat over, say, Batman or good ol’ Freddy Krueger, is an excellent excuse to paint the characters a bit more precisely, giving them more substance. Like Dante and Randal discussing Star Wars in Clerks, or Quentin Tarantino’s characters dissecting Madonna’s work in Reservoir Dogs, knowing the subject matter is not as important as seeing the echoes and clashes that ensue.

The prose in Stay God is more than polished, more than beautiful. If, held at gunpoint, I had to pick one book out there that I consider a hundred percent perfect, prose-wise, it would be Craig Clevenger‘s Dermaphoria. Life was so easy, I had that answer all ready to go. And then Nik Korpon happened. I’m not sure which book I’d pick anymore.

Not a single sentence rings false, each paragraph pulls you deeper into the story with the greatest of ease. That old rule of comedy that says the harder you laugh, the harder you cry? Nik masters it, except he sometimes switches cry for cringe, or cheer, or close your eyes and pray everything will be fine.

As for the plot itself? The curtains match the drapes. The plot never slows down, except maybe once in a rare while, but it’s controlled, as if the slowing down was only there to better sucker punch your heart and brain, tangling you up in plot twists, before it all speeds back up and there’s no guarantee the breaks are working anymore, and you just know that Nik Korpon coolly lopped off the seat-belts with the aforementioned hedge clippers. It’s brilliant.

axeltaiari

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Axel Taiari is a French writer, born and raised in Paris. His short stories and poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies such as dogmatika, 365tomorrows, Troubadour 21, and Eternal Night: A Vampire Anthology. He is the creator and co-editor of Rotten Leaves magazine. He recently finished his noir science-fiction novel and is now trying to sell his soul to the devil.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, December 13th, 2010.