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"I don't know if this is a book about the failing of ideologies, a lesson about the dangers of straying from our individual faiths, or the masturbatory aid of a very sick person, but it works."

Jim Martin reviews Aaron Zimmerman's By The Time You Finish This You May Be Dead


I get asked to review a wide variety of work for 3AM, but for the most part, it tends towards more flowery, literary fiction. And there's nothing wrong with that at all, although sometimes I wonder if the people asking me to review it have ever read any of my other work. I'm not exactly Captain of the Flowery Squad. But nonetheless, I do enjoy something a little more classical or heady as a break-up of my usual taste in books, which ranges from crap to drek.

Unfortunately for me, I've been reading more and more classic literature of late simply out of some need to be able to smarmily say, Great Expectations? Why, I've read that. The butler did it you know. Mwa. And while I've definitely enjoyed this string of drier titles, seeing a new book come in the mail left me with a bit of a cringe. I was more in the mood for something a little seedier than the usual review request.

The book in question was By The Time You Finish This Book You Might Be Dead by Aaron Zimmerman, a book which unquestionably is not dry, not classical, and definitely not dull. The author's style is I think quite unique, but the characters he creates are to a degree reminiscent of those created by Chuck Palahniuk, in that they are the unlovable anti-heroes my generation has come to love so well.

The main character, Eliot Greebee is a sleeze. He's a walrus of a man with almost no redeeming qualities. Eliot has written a book introducing the world to CUTLAS, his system of life improvement. The basic premise of this system is that it is better to live a wild, gratifying, and self-satisfying life entirely in the moment than to think of anything farther ahead than the next couple of seconds. And it's all supported by mathematics.

The novel is divided between the explanation of CUTLAS, and a 48-hour fly-on-the-wall trip through Eliot Greebee's life at a particular moment that winds up being far more important than poor Eliot can imagine at the time. It's a wild, shocking, sexy, nasty, filthy, self-hating, self-congratulating, autoerotic parody of the boy-meets-girl story we're all tired of reading.

It's frightening and flattering to realize that I agree with some of Greebee's philosophy as I read the book. That said, I'm nowhere near the man that one would have to be to employ this into your daily life, but I definitely loved the way that the author creates this almost common sense system to completely justify every act that Eliot perpetrates.

I don't know if this is a book about the failing of ideologies, a lesson about the dangers of straying from our individual faiths, or the masturbatory aid of a very sick person, but it works. I didn't want to put it down, I didn't want it to end, and while it was anything but predictable, it was also exactly what it had to be. It's some of the most endearing filth I've read in a while, and I'm very grateful to have read it.


Jim Martin is a Chief Editor for 3am Magazine, front man for the obscure punk rock band Johnny Incognito, and just a heck of a nice guy.

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