Thursday, March 24, 2016

PERFECT DAYS :: Raphael Montes

He placed Clarice back in the larger suitcase. It was amazing how flexible she was and how she folded up so easily, like a little travel toothbrush.

From Note from the Author:

Also, it is perfectly possible to hide a petite woman in a large suitcase with wheels. I have tried it and it works.

If I weren't so wordy and didn't want to rave about this book, I would stop right there. Do you really need to know any more about Perfect Days and/or its delightful author, Raphael Montes? I'd say not, and I'll never do this brilliant and ghoulish creepfest justice, but I'mma gonna try.

Teodoro Avelar is a medical student who lives with his disabled mother in Rio de Janiero. His only friend is Gertrude, the cadaver in his anatomy lab:

The girl made Teo want to laugh. And if Gertrude could have heard that nonsense, she'd have hooted with laughter too. Together they'd have drunk expensive wine, chatted about all manner of things, watched films and discussed the cinematography and the set and costume design afterward like film critics. Gertrude would have taught him how to live.

Montes neither hides nor wastes any time showing the reader that Teo is a full-blown psychopath. That is neither the mystery nor where the fun lies. Things ramp up quickly when Teo meets aspiring screenwriter Clarice at a barbecue and believes he's found the one true being that can be his animated Gertrude.

When I say Teo then sets out to "woo" Clarice, I use that word rather than "stalk" because Teo is delusional enough to believe he's wooing his soulmate. And Teo takes his wooing seriously. His efforts quickly escalate out of control, as evidenced by the above excerpt revealing Clarice ends up folded in a suitcase. And that's just how the relationship STARTS.

Perfect Days is a sublime trip down a macabre road. It is so wonderfully tense and dark I found myself creepily smiling and laughing to myself as I read (seriously, this made me question just how warped I am - I did cringe while laughing, if that counts for anything). It's really not funny, but it's so straight-forwardly depraved that it felt like black comedy. I loved every delightful, scintillating, nasty minute of it, and just when I thought I couldn't be surprised by the cat-and-mouse action, Montes took me around another corner.

Teo is one of the most enthralling protagonists I've read in a long time. He is so bound up in his love illusion that no matter how bad things get, and they get very, very bad, he's convinced if he just tries hard enough he will get the happy ending he so deserves. But Clarice is no shrinking violet, despite her size. She is a strong woman who speaks her mind and will do whatever it takes to win her mental and physical duel with Teo.

Of all the books that have been likened to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (which, as you know, drives me nuts, and I swear that joint post is coming, right Pop Culture Nerd?), Perfect Days is a rare one that actually has some of that same atmosphere and gravitas. It's seriously f'd up and I adored every minute. Raphael Montes is 25 years old. What a mind. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the literary world.

STREET SENSE:  If you're after a dark, smart tale of pathological love and obsession, this is your jam. I'm going to shout about this one for a while, so you may as well just give in now and pick up a copy. I wanted to rush out and buy everything else Montes has written. Unfortunately, his backlist is not yet available in English (pretty please, Penguin Press?). I dare you to read Perfect Days (including the Acknowledgments) and not want to learn Portuguese to avoid the wait.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  When Teo got home, he felt giddy. He ran to get his cell from the bedside table and sent a text message to his mother. Then  he checked his missed calls, savoring the numbers of the last one. He lay on the sofa for a long while, staring at the ceiling, reliving the images. Something had exploded inside him. Something he couldn't explain, nor did he even want to. Although he didn't know Clarice's surname, where she lived, or where she studied art history, he had her cell number, and that made them intimate.

COVER NERD SAYS:   How the simple, pretty, almost dainty cover images convey creepy I don't know, but they do. Simple perfection.

Lastly, I'm going to share a video I found on Raphael's website. I could take a pretty good guess at what passages these folks are reading. Rest assured, if you'd rather avoid super gross or violent imagery, there really isn't that much in this book that should make you shy away. I say that after telling you how messed up it is, so I suppose you should take it with a grain of salt, but I don't want anyone to miss out. Take a look:

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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