Book Review

How To Disappear Completely by Doug Richmond
disappear_cover

Mount Laurel Library Sale ($0.99)

The cover is probably the most competently done aspect of the entire book. I picked this up excited at the idea of hearing about someone(s) that successfully dropped their identity and became someone else in another part of the world. As a frequent traveler, I understand the benefits that come with this sort of fake death even if mine is comparably a half measure.

We are instead given the author’s fanciful accounts of things that really don’t seem like they happened. If you cut away all the fat, there are two chapters worth of actual useful content. Accept that this was written in 1986, and that drops to one chapter. Most of which are things I could have thought of if I had simply spent a lazy afternoon dreaming about how I might hide my tracks.

This book made me laugh the hardest I’ve ever laughed while completely alone. I would continually put the book down for a moment in order to regain composure. The back cover text speaks of a fact seeking journalist, when he is actually a drunk offering batshit insane ramblings about people and things that became so unbelievable that I didn’t believe it any longer. He mentions on the first page that no one he talked to would consent to being tape recorded, which made sense to me, so I was expecting dry recounts of specific details that would help facilitate whatever he was explaining. But these feel like unpolished narratives that bend over backwards to support the details he was more excited to talk about. More than two of these accounts are a random encounter at a bar with someone who opens up to him about their past life before they disappeared. These stories are couched in basic tips and information including how it would be counter-intuitive to talk openly to anyone about your past life.

A more unfortunately entertaining aspect of this read is that our author is a backseat misogynist who barely hides his contempt for the gender responsible for all of these people eager to disappear. 

The first taste of his disdain towards women comes on page six. All hypothetical situations mentioned contain a very telling connection. It isn’t long in each one before the wife is conniving to have this man disgraced, forcing him to do what any sane man must. Disappear, and never be found.

This book went to fourth edition, so please don’t exchange any more money for it, but it is a short read worth your time. Flip through it if you find it in a library or a box somewhere. I cannot emphasize enough how much wholehearted malarkey is contained in these quick pages. It feels as though you’re reading a fading man’s myth of himself at the end of his life. Half this book’s heroes were written before he put the paper in the typewriter. Their successes, their charm. Daring to do what he never could. Tell their wife what they really think about them and celebrate with a cold beer.

Short Fiction Assignment

A three year old girl sits on a bench in the hallway of her home. The grandfather clock by her front door is a deep box of curious noises. Her tiny legs dangle above her packed bags on the floor beneath her, and have synchronized with the clock’s pendulum. A single flick of the chime marks 4:15. As the vibrations settle around the room, the girl tilts her head up the stairs:

“Mom!”

A “Yes?” is heard from somewhere upstairs.

“What time are we leaving again?”

“4:30.”

Her eyes jump back to the clock, scanning the towering structure upwards. Having a vague understanding that the face is where she is supposed to be looking for help, but the symbols offer her nothing but symmetry. She turns her head back again and opens her mouth, only to be cut off by her mother upstairs:

“That’s fourteen minutes, sweetheart.”

The girl considers this for a minute. Steals a glance at the fingers spread open in her lap, then pushes her top lip down into her mouth to help her think. The click of the minute hand draws her back into the hallway, and again she yells to her mother:

“How long is fifteen minutes?”

The hair dryer revs down. “What?”

“What?”

“What did you ask, Ashley?”

“How long is fifteen minutes?”

“Umm…hold on.” The hair dryer is turned back on.

Ashley takes a mental inventory of all the numbers she is aware of, and then looks back to the clock. Above her, the noise ceases once more. 

“I’ve got it.”

Ashley looks upwards without speaking.

“Ashley?”

“Yes?”

“Alright. You know that digging song you like to listen to in the car?”

Ashley smiles widely. “The hole! The hole! It’s getting bigger.” The chair creaks as she shifts her weight around.

“Yes. Well that song is about three minutes long.”

“Ok.”

“When you make us listen to that song five times, that is fifteen minutes.”

“Five…”

“Think about that song. How long it takes to play from the beginning to end.”

“Ok.”

“Now hold up five fingers.”

Ashley raises her hand in front of her face and counts out five digits. Something drops into a sink upstairs.

“The whole digging song, that many times.”

Ashley begins digging a large hole in her mind, and the lights in the hall dim as the hair dryer screams back into life.