They Had Goat Heads
By D. Harlan Wilson
Published by: Atlatl Press
D. Harlan Wilson’s offering They Had Goat Heads is quite possibly the most bizarre, insane, dizzying collection of writings (it’s really, really hard to call the ‘stories’—it’s just not an accurate definition of some of the writing).
I always read bizarre fiction at arm’s length. Sometimes you come across an author who literally strings together random words and sentences, perhaps vaguely centered around some impossible circumstance. Other times, you get fiction that is just weird for the sake of being weird, and it ends up not being very weird, but just plain bad. Even more rare, you get a bizarre author who offers up a collection that astounds, surprises, intrigues, fascinates, and utterly absorbs the reader.
Happily, I discovered Wilson is one of those rare authors.
Goat Heads contains about 40 stories, each one more unusual that the last. For most, the titles are a good indicator of what the story is actually about. Every story usually ends up right back where it began, but along the way, the stream of consciousness narrative makes the reader pause. Every story has at least one revelation moment, when you sort of chuckle to yourself and think, “That’s so true…” A few of the stories have a little bit of social commentary, like “Whale” and “Hovercraft”. “Hog-ripping” is one of my favorite stories from the collection.
What I love about this collection is it’s not just random bullcrap spewed on to a page. Everything hangs right on the verge of making sense, like Wilson is almost trying to tell us something. What, I don’t know. He probably doesn’t even know. Repetition is one of Wilson’s favorite tricks in Goat Heads, and it works like a charm. I loved how a couple of the stories have the cyclical nature of somebody trying hard to think about something important, but has the unfortunate habit of getting distracted by whatever thought induced by whatever shadow or flicker of light or private demon that surfaces. Wilson writes with a fluid nature that smoothes the jarring nature of some of the transitions and effortlessly drags the reader into his incredibly twisted mind.
If you’re a fan of bizarro, or looking for a good book in the genre to try, pick up They Had Goat Heads. It’s a great collection for a newbie to ease into the genre, as well as being ‘out there’ enough to appease the hardcore bizarro reader.