I met Wred Fright a few summers ago when Mike Faloon and I hit Cleveland on a book tour. Wred’s a funny and engaging guy who I’ve kept in touch with since—my literary broadsheet Cabildo Quarterly ran one of his stories, and I dug his novel the Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus, which remains one of the truest novels I’ve ever read about a band. There’s no great success to be had, no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, as the Emus grind it out—the success is that they keep doing it despite success, like so many of us do in our respective media. Wred knows a collection of people playing music—generating tones at the same time— is at least a little absurd, and runs with the idea.
Frequently Asked Questions about Being Dead is also an absurd novel—any work that contains talking stacks of pancakes and penises is, almost by default—but the absurdity works on multiple levels. Wred’s tale of the afterlife is full of animate objects walking around, asking newly dead folks to fill out consumer questionnaires before they’re reassigned back into the universe. In his wry way, Wred is poking fun at the very nature of the afterlife, reminding me of the old Bill Hicks bit where he wonders why we celebrate the crucifixion by telling children a giant rabbit put plastic eggs full of chocolate in baskets. A lot of what passes for normal is what we take for granted—and Wred knows this. He couches his discussion in more absurdity, which loops back to “normal,” whatever that means nowadays. And all this happens before the “question dudes” assigned to giving surveys start to get restless regarding some of heaven’s newly minted denizens and decide to revolt.
Even if you’re not into tipping sacred cows, Frequently Asked Questions about Being Dead is a fun read for its snappy dialogue, which moves with the gag-laden pace of good screenplays, or vaudeville. This book is a trip, well worth checking out. –Michael T. Fournier (wredfright.com)