Anitclimax Leviathan By Ryan Bartek, 404 pgs.

What if I told you Ryan Bartek, author of Anitclimax Leviathan, compared himself to Henry Miller and he says he wrote like Miller before he even knew Miller existed? That would be annoying, right? Well, Bartek writes in the same manic style of Miller, but without the low points. Reading Miller is often like doing somebody else’s Ketamine. When his prose gets long-in-the-tooth, you start coming down and things get boring until you get another bump of transcendent prose. Bartek’s writing, however, stays compulsively readable.

Anticlimax Leviathan
is a memoir told in a stream-of-consciousness style. Starting out in Detroit where he’s immersed in the underground music scene and a well-recognized heavy metal journalist, he energetically describes Detroit in the early aughts with engrossing tales of the desperate underground music scene in that decaying city. His eerie tales of booking shows in a cursed, haunted building where ghost fires would mysteriously combust, to those of his psycho friends whose mission was leading a terror campaign against Eminem are compelling.

Anticlimax Leviathan is interspersed with stories of Bartek’s desperation, like his stint as a taxi driver driving mentally ill folks around who’d been booted from the hospitals with nowhere to go, and the accident on that job left him with a cracked spine. Out of fear of getting caught scamming welfare, he can’t go to the hospital and gets strung out on pain meds scored off the street.

Eventually, he hits the open road for a year-long stint, crisscrossing the country on Greyhounds, often sleeping on the ground to write his magnum opus, Big Shiny Prison. He also ends up in a very dark place attempting to pull off a Tyler Durden-style cult called the Pan-Tribal Conspiracy. Then he willfully and joyously lives on the streets of Seattle, running around with his buddies starting something called Free Therapy and finally comes out of the closet as bisexual and attempts to navigate mainstream gay bars, coming away only with contempt for them. He then gets immersed in Occupy Portland.

Most of the book, though, is about chasing women from Florida to Portland to Seattle and back to Detroit. In fact, mostly, it’s about these dysfunctional relationships he has with these women. Women who he gives names like Mistress Maam, Clownbaby, and [][][] (yes, [][][]). Shockingly, even here, I never tire of reading. The dude can just write.

However, there’s a lot not to like about Bartek. He’s cringingly politically incorrect (to be fair, this came out in 2015 and takes place mostly in the early aughts, (a cringey time for myself as well)). He’s a megalomaniac, to the point of referring to himself in the third person under names like GhostNomad, Quixxote, and more. He’s also a misogynist. The flippant way he refers to the sexual assaults of women he knows is, particularly, bristling. Yeah, I can’t say Bartek is anybody I’d ever want to meet, but I can’t deny that I just plowed through all four hundred pages of Anticlimax Leviathan. –Craven Rock (Anomie Press, bigshinyprison.com)