Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5
The satirical novel From G to PG to R to X delights in following the world’s cocksure zooming in the wrong direction.
Stephen C. Bird’s satirical novel From G to PG to R to X follows the devolution of national politics, sexual politics, and political correctness in the polarized nation of Amourrica Profunda.
Loaded with caricatures, including a talking octopus, who disappear and reappear, the story shatters literary conventions. In it, unpopular capitalist and former chancellor Tumerico Inflammatorio, who won his election by running against an even more unpopular candidate, has an oddball family whose sole goal is to make money and remain in power. Inflammatorio’s exploitation of a nation too delusional or distracted to stop him is blatant.
Despite Inflammatorio’s national prominence, it is ordinary Sunnie, who just lost his mother, who is centered for the first half of the book. He lives in a rich environment replete with secret tunnels and lights that auto-dim to leave him in the dark; his world reflects his anxieties, and he enters the twilight dimension on repeat. He loses himself in a surrealistic relationship with a dominatrix who hurls hilarious insults and taunts to debase him.
Most of the cast is shallow, including Tumerico’s daughter and her skinny husband. There are a bevy of untalented, unapologetic, soulless capitalists. The more lines that are devoted to a character, the more cartoonish they appear. With adults like this steering the ship, the inevitable ending is cataclysm.
Bird presents a surreal satire of modern America in a tale that includes an orange-haired despot and divisive culture wars.
The country of Amourrica Profunda was once a place where society was civil and people respected one another’s diverse views. Now, political and social chaos has torn the country apart. A main cause of this disintegration is the commitment of some to the belief that “an autocrat could save the country from a supposed cultural downward spiral.” The dictator in question goes by the name of Turmerico Inflammatorio, has orange hair, a love of nepotism, and a disdain for ordinary people. No one could accuse him of presenting a false persona, though, as there’s “no discernible difference between 9 to 5 Turmerico and Off-Hours Inflammatorio—He was depraved, deranged and demented 24-7.” Pamm Demmyck and Remmy Dessyvyr are two writing partners who aim to make a living in this world, and they hope one day to be celebrated for their “monumental contributions to the entertainment industry.” Success looks certain for Pamm and Remmy with their upcoming work, Conceal and Carry: The Musical—at least until the production runs into trouble due to some domestic terrorists. This is just the beginning of the mayhem to come in this wild, whirlwind work, which includes a cult ceremony involving Midwesterners who love latex and one character’s burning down a house with a flamethrower. Turmerico’s daughter Francka is particularly notable; she spends her workdays “screaming at people that she considered to be idiots” and burns her 8-year-old daughter Deandra’s artwork while Deandra watches. The storytelling maelstrom does yield some points of confusion, though; the long history of Amourrica Profunda and its disintegration takes several pages to lay out, and readers may find following every beat to be no simple task. In addition, a few descriptions, such as “an early twentieth century, dark brown wooden staircase,” prove to be more wordy than distinct. Still, Bird succeeds in creating a world in which seemingly anything is possible.
A convoluted but highly comical take on a nation in turmoil.