I never thought that there could be a book adaptation of Final Flesh, but then Vernon Chatman follows that film up with Mindsploitation, which… kinda is. With Final Flesh, he found a couple of porn studios that would let you write up your own 15-20 minute script and for a certain amount of money, they’d film it — so he wrote a few surrealist shorts to be shot, which he then edited into a film. In Mindsploitation, the porn studios have been replaced by the oldest Internet profession: Companies that will do your homework for you.
Chatman (co-creator of Wonder Showzen and Xavier: Renegade Angel) made up 50 different absurd assignments and paid the companies to do them. I’d be interested to know if he was ever refused — but if these are any indication, the people writing for these companies are complete troopers. Troopers with a really dodgy grasp of the English language, perhaps, but troopers nonetheless. Even though Chatman’s assignments rarely even make sense, they try their best to fulfill the requirements. Usually. There’s one who, asked to do a single 28-word sentence starting with “Using at least 20 words, finish this sentence…”, who ends up taking five tries at it… and still doesn’t do it. Or the few where he asks for song lyrics to the tune of public domain songs — that never ever actually match the tune they’re supposed to be.
The best ones, though, are where the writer is game for whatever crazy revisions Chatman (under almost 50 different pseudonyms, all with the initials VC, very few of which are actual names — my favorite is the recurring character Vlumpy Custered of Vittleton, Arkansas) requests. One is for a poetry analysis that ends up needing to be in the shape of a letter A. Or where a hypothetical new limb is invented (the peanutclaw), which “Vibon Childon” then requests tech support to help with the problems he’s having with said limb, which has apparently become flesh.
I also especially like when there’s a back and forth — like the request for a new dance that evolves into “Vander Chalman” asking the essay company to write an ad to sell eight babies on Craigslist. Or the request for a post-modern story at least five meta-levels deep, where each request for clarification is greeted with praise.
David O’Reilly’s illustrations are throughout the book, but in a twist that makes sense if you know Vernon Chatman’s M.O., the illustrations are out of order and don’t correspond with the essays they’re depicting. Honestly, I’ve probably said enough — I don’t want to spoil the entire damn book. But if you dig the Wonder Showzen/PFFR/Xavier aesthetic, you’ll dig this book. If you don’t… well, at least he paid people to have their time wasted on nonsense? I don’t know what else to tell you.