What Makes You Die review


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Book Synopsis:(Synopsis, Courtesy of Apex Publications)

“To see more is to find oblivion… Screenwriter Tommy Pic fell hard from Hollywood success and landed in a psychiatric ward, blacked out from booze and unmedicated manic depression. This is not the first time he’s come to in restraints, surrounded by friends and family who aren’t there.
This time, though, he also awakes to a message from his agent. The first act of his latest screenplay is their ticket back to the red carpets. If only Tommy could remember writing it. Trying to recapture the hallucinations that crafted his masterpiece, he chases his kidnapped childhood love, a witch from the magic shop downstairs, and the Komodo dragon he tried to cut out of his gut one Christmas Eve. The path to professional redemption may be more dangerous than the fall.
…This is what makes you die.”


Echoing the sentiments of another reviewer, from the TOR fantasy blog, Tom Picirilli’s fragmented, unorthodox novel What Makes You Die really threw me for a loop. I was not expecting such depth, and such a myriad number of great passages that exemplified Tom’s talent as a writer throughout this rather terse, but highly enjoyable work (the book is approximately 150 pages). If you read the blurb above for the book, you are probably a bit perplexed and even mildly disturbed. On a cautious note, some of the readers of my blog will probably not like this book; they may find some of the more graphic or explicit passages that are very adult in nature to be vulgar and puerile. Personally, I think they did nothing but excellently augment the realistic, yet darkly humorous drama that is maintained throughout the book.

For those like myself who are willing to bravely read something that is part-psychological thriller and part-eccentric memoir , you will find plenty of things to love about this book. First of all, the plot revolves around a failed Hollywood script writer, whose talent ranges mostly around writing scripts for low-budget films. Basically, the book methodically acts as Tommy’s weird psychoanalytic session, pertaining to some of the stranger occurrences of his life. The first-person perspective of this manic depressive scriptwriter, Tommy, is appropriately fragmented, yet there is a rich coherence to each of the memories that Tommy recollects upon during much of the novel. In a weird existential twist of events, we are thrust into the questioning stance ourselves about whether or not we have any ounce of sympathy for Tommy’s turbulent life; can we entirely fault him for the ruination of his life?

Throughout much of the novel, Tom Picirilli leads the reader through his many sordid affairs towards some of the more lachrymose moments of his life. As though written as a stream of conscience, the reader is forced to question the morality of the character’s actions and decide whether or not Tommy ever feels complete remorse for his actions. Does his metal illness make asking any question about ethical behavior and responsibility for his immoral actions? Can we lay the blame on the lascivious lifestyle that is inherent to the seedy underworld of Hollywood that takes place far away from the limelight of Hollywood glamour or the  fleeting flashes of cameras from the voyeuristic members of the paparazzi?

From the chaotic ruminations of one character’s mind, the reader is thrown into a cerebral whirlwind of deep psychological questions that Tom, as with any truly skilled artist, is unafraid to penetrate without fear of upsetting more prudish readers.Does this character’s perspective cleverly seek to hoodwink us  Iago-style into believing that is inculpable for the supposed crimes that he committed? Could this whole account be merely mendacious? Does our preconceived notions or stigmatized preconceptions of those with bipolar prevent from truly grasping the nuances of Tommy’s character? The fact that this book stirs up so many questions about the reliability of Tommy’s narration shows Tom P.’s skills as a writer.

Using just the precise measure of levity, and tense, dramatic moments, Tom succeeds with writing a fascinating study of the human psyche. Being an established author and having won the Bram Stoker prize for horror fiction, it is no surprise then that this book is written very well,even if some of the more graphic sequences left  my mind feeling besmirched at times with tolerable unease.. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but some of the scenes were just a bit of an uncomfortable read, not enough to detract from the quality and enjoyment of the book. On that note, this level of realism kept the sex scenes in this book from being lurid or artificial.  This is a earnest work of fiction;therefore, the author has no time to prettify the true complexity of sexual or romantic relationships, as they are in real life. (Good art emulates one’s life)

Again, this book comes highly recommended from me, and I implore anyone with an open mind to read something that is a bit unconventional and disturbingly revealing. Also, it has intervals of true, knee-splitting humor in the midst of gripping psychological intrigue and hardship. By the end of it, I really quite loved it, and will be looking for more Tom Picirilli books to read. If you’re a Chuck Palaniuk fan in particular (like myself),  this book is definitely one that you should check out! It has just the right amount of “American Psycho” esque  intrigue with a dash of Chuck Palaniuk’s signature dark, twisted humor to boot. Tom does it in his own way excellently, and leaves fans of stories with a darkly humorous tone  and slightly melodramatic flair with a need to read more.

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