cover image Broken Piano for President

Broken Piano for President

Patrick Wensink. Eraserhead/Lazy Fascist (Ingram, dist.), $11.99 trade paper (335p) ISBN 978-1-62105-020-9

Friends of Deshler Dean, the antihero of Wensink's psychedelic trip of a novel (after Black Hole Blues), call him "the Cliff Drinker" because after two drinks "he falls off a boozy edge and forgets everything." Unbeknownst to Deshler, he's spent his recent blackouts conspiring with rival fast food chains to create the deep-fried Monte Cristo Burger for Bust-A-Gut Hamburgers and the condensed, dehydrated Space Burger for Winters Old-Tyme Hamburgers. When he's not drunkenly fueling the burger wars, Deshler sings in the band Lothario Speedwagon whose "Shows usually end early when the singer throws things, which include, but are not limited to" chairs, punches, and Zip-Loc bags of ketchup. The executives of both burger chains fight for Deshler's creative talent despite his drunken antics and utter lack of professionalism. The fast food cold war heats up as spies and assassins%E2%80%94including Deshler's own bandmate, Henry%E2%80%94work to undermine their rivals, and a Winters publicity stunt to send Space Burgers to starving Russian cosmonauts goes terribly wrong. With double agents warring for domination of the burger market and a mysterious health food organization rallying against Big Beef, reading Wensink's convoluted and unpolished story requires a veritable suspension bridge of disbelief. However, instead of being absorbed into what Deshler's publisher calls "bizarro fiction," the effect is more like waking up with a terrible hangover or trying to recall a bad dream. (Mar.)