Kelby Losack’s Heathenish (Broken River Books) devasted me. It has taken me weeks to write this review as I was haunted by my own memories of a friend robbing a bank to fuel his heroin addiction and another friend whose daughter was stabbed to death by her husband in front of their children. Shit. Heathenish has the clarity and importance of a dream forgotten, it’s fucking soul crushing.
Structured as a series of vignettes, Heathenish opens with Losack telling his wife that their marriage is over, not an odd place for a memoir to begin, but considering the couple has three kids and Losack is only twenty years old at the time, one realizes that this is going to be one strange fucking trip. After settling in at his parents, Losack and his friends turn a friend’s house “into a civic center for hoodrats. When the moon comes out, we fulfill our vices. It’s like heaven, if heaven had a secret back room with a filthy mattress beneath a broken Bow flex.”
The house on Sixth Ave is alive tonight. I rub shoulders with strangers, share breathing space with unfamiliar faces. Vyron plugs his laptop into a loudspeaker and plays a beat he made and we get a freestyle circle going. Beads of sweat fly from the swinging hair of intoxicated dancers. Liquor-touched tongues twist together. A golden waterfall is tipped over a tabletop. Someone throws a fist and we throw him out and go back to getting throwed.
Double-stacked Styrofoam cups full of purple stuff.
Open baggies across the floor like popcorn at the cinema.
One hundred hands, five hundred lighters.
Beer cans accordioned on the lawn.
Vomit and piss and someone passed out on the lawn.
I sniff some devil dust and sip some lean and everything is sideways.
It’s Christmastime, and like good Americans, we try to fabricate euphoria and pretend for a moment we have something to celebrate.
What makes Heathenish resonate is Losack’s writing which does not abandon honesty while being disturbingly poetic. Five months into 2017, my top ten list is beginning to take shape and Kelby Losack’s Heathenish is going to be in there somewhere.