Thru the Disintegration Loop: On Christopher Norris’ Hunchback 88 by Mike Corrao

(Now available from Inside the Castle)


The dimensions of the text are reminiscent of a brick or a VHS tape—something small & dense that you could use to break a window.



Inside is Christopher Norris’ Hunchback ’88something resembling a horror novel.



What was the cover in the original release from Permanent Sleep Press has now been repurposed as a kind of introductory segment (taking that outward face that’s traditionally not considered part of the content and bringing into the contained narrative zone of the ‘interior’).



The margins are tight, perhaps alluding to the fragmented claustrophobia of the text itself. Language is often chopped and spread. What might have started as a straightforward retelling of events is always obscured by tangents and asides.



Descriptions of the body (of gore) are simultaneously grotesque and uncaring. Written as if orated during a vivisection / dissection / autopsy.



“The digestive works lifted from the chassis to breathe and bleed out and down.”



There is no spectacle in the creation of gore. Its appearance is inevitable. Especially in the fatalisms of the slasher flick. There is always a revealing of the interior. But in this case, it is not a romantic display, Hunchback ’88’s interest is in this kind of alluring ugliness that the flesh can engender.



“Naked, the man is laced around a wooden chair.”



Gore is not so much the result of violence as it is curation. The body is recontextualized as a tableau.



But at the same time there is a certain economic quality to what the slasher creates. Perhaps as the material of a commercial film or as the tender of a biocurrency (the wound as a fetish object).



Hunchback ’88’s narration is often maze-like, winding in and out of the know. On topic one moment and miles away the next.



Night beach, again
The beach… it is night”



Everything spoken is recorded, reminiscent of the um’s and uh’s of Ed Atkins A Primer for Cadavers. Uttered as if through a directionless phone call.



Pulled from POV to POV through an aggressive and shape-shifting second person.



Cinematic rhetoric like the jump-cut, the dissolve, etc. seem to contextualize this fragmentation as a kind of edit/cut. Connecting the half-burned filmstock of slasher flicks, commercials, ham radio conversations, and looping them until they finally disintegrate.



With each new loop, the text has distorted further, it has once again undergone deterritorialization → reterritorialization (a kind of memetic cycle). Whatever it began as (an axe murderer hunting teen girls, or a hedonistic punk scene gone rogue) it is now something else entirely.



“Unzipping the pregnant expanse—”



And in that reterritorialization, the point of origin no longer matters. I am not particularly interested in where these scenes spawned from. I am instead encountering them now as a collage of tight paragraphs. Images of the artifacted interior / affective body.



“Cadaverous shadow”



The collaging of these scenes occurs at both a microscopic and macroscopic level. In the former, splitting paragraphs via ellipses, em dashes or shifting scenes from one line break to the next. In the latter, we see segments being separated by a series of blank pages (often somewhere from one to three).



The inclusion of a deliberate and recurring emptiness greatly expands the duration of the text. Even within an otherwise confined object. The appearance of these zones distorts the reader’s sense of time. What could have been only a second grows into a long silence.



The pace dramatically slows in these moments, functioning as a kind of fade-to-black.



Other times the text begins to fade into the page similar to dissolve, but never does it seem to fully disappear. There is always a moment at which it decides to come back again.



“Bettys surfaces from a wet melt”



John Trefry alludes to this cinematic rhetoric in his contribution to the paratext, viewing Hunchback ’88 as a visualized literary mode—cinematic in its form rather than in its longing to become cinema.



There are strange cuts, false endings. The cinematic often operates in sync with the labyrinthine narration.



The inclusion of a wide range of imagery as well further lures the reader into this visual mode of engaging with the text. Scenes shift between written and illustrated mediums.



Inky stamped images of ghosts or women slipping on banana peels, photos of hands or beach sunsets, gothic typographies, self-assembling gardens. There is an alluring tonal dissonance to the imagery. Often taking what might be an easily identifiable atmosphere and making it something much more uncanny or ambiguous.



There is a sense of unknowability to the text. It is not fully the point to understand (or even necessarily to want to understand) what is going on.



My fixations are on the image of the body as it has been opened and painted across the wall. We are scrying the streaks and flecks left behind at the crime scene.



Paratextual elements provided by Thomas Moore, Chris Zeischegg, and Maggie Seibert frame the base text as something haunted or cursed. A monstrous author torturing others for a blurb, a monstrous text ruining your life through the seeming randomness of its presence.



“Tomb of the Banana Peel”



The text wishes to haunt its reader (perhaps fulfilling its own desires to become a slasher).



But here we might view the slasher as a more metaphysical position. Not as the masked person killing innocent teens, but as a figure creating death through an aesthetic process.



There is no simple or clean kill. It is always chaotic, prolonged, messy.



The wall is turned into a canvas, the cadaver into a sculptural object.



Hunchback ’88 confronts this facet of the slasher—the ugly and uncanny allure of what they create, the art of the mangled body.







Mike Corrao is the author of three novels, Man, Oh Man (Orson’s Publishing); Gut Text (11:11 Press) and Rituals Performed in the Absence of Ganymede (11:11 Press); one book of poetry, Two Novels (Orson’s Publishing); two plays, Smut-Maker (Inside the Castle) and Andromedusa (Forthcoming – Plays Inverse); and three chapbooks, Avian Funeral March (Self-Fuck); Material Catalogue (Alienist) and Spelunker (Schism – Neuronics). Along with earning multiple Best of the Net nominations, Mike’s work has been featured in publications such as 3:AMCollagistAlways Crashing, and Denver Quarterly. His work often explores the haptic, architectural, and organismal qualities of the text-object. He lives in Minneapolis. @ShmikeShmorrao

December 15th, 2021|
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