Review: Dead Men Naked by Dario Cannizzaro 8.5/10*
Memory is a fickle thing, but alcohol induced memory is even more so. Lou wakes up after a heavy drinking session with his best friend Neil to be hit with some weird recollections about his friend’s death. He remembers a strange skinny man, dressed all in black looking like a vampire, along with a six-foot tall crow. He is in a state of sheer panic as the prose blurts out his agitated thoughts.
Is he going mad?
Did this actually happen?
Is Cannizzaro telling us this tale through the lens of an unreliable narrator?
These are questions I asked myself as Lou was driven to the police station. The game was set, and I was immediately drawn into the narrative. What follows is a story of strange happenings and undefined magic; it is a story about life, death and a few things in between the two. Lou is completely out of his depth; he is a pretty normal guy, ordinary. He did not expect to get tangled up with such things as mediums, the after life and death itself. Surprisingly, he does not doubt his own sanity through the process; he just takes it in his stride and aims for the end, as we all must.
Cannizzaro plays around with his writing, a style carried over from his collection of short stories Of Life, Death, Aliens and Zombies. The novel does not fit neatly into genre brackets, but instead crosses several thresholds. Part horror, part fantasy and part magical realism, this is best described as a dark tragicomedy. It’s a work that does not take itself too seriously. The trials Lou faces, and the painful loss he feels, is offset by the undercurrent of dark humour that surrounds the fact that these events are happening: that these things are actually real.
There is also some wisdom in these pages. Friendship, not the kind that passes over time, but real friendship is defined in a very down-to-earth way that is exactly on the mark. I found myself smiling knowingly when Lou described it. In addition, there are questions about what life is and what we ultimately try do with it. We all strive for a sense of satisfaction; it’s different for each individual with happiness being the key. Death is what the novel is really about though, and what it means and what it may entail. It comes in many different forms, and for Lou it certainly enters his life in a unique way.
For this reason I would recommend this to fans of Neil Gaiman, particularly those who enjoyed the Sandman comic book series. Obscure constructs such as death have been personified, and the everyday world has been bombarded with the fantastic. However, that’s not to say that Cannizzaro writes like Gaiman; he is funnier for one and the structure of this book is far less regimented. This book is humorous, tragic at heart and, most of all, strangely perceptive. I recommend it highly.