It was released quietly but thundered up Amazon’s bestseller list. Mike Ma’s Gothic Violence needed no support but the author’s own drive and aura to sell. It did have the support of his initial work of satire, Harassment Architecture, to pull in new readers. Whether a reader enjoyed that first effort, buy Gothic Violence for a superior experience.
A friend recommended Harassment Architecture, prefacing his review by saying it felt very American Psycho. While that influence is present, the book was its own entity of strange daydreams and daily moments of a young man’s life. Gothic surpasses Harassment by having a true plot, weaving multiple threads on women, history, the occult and our rotten, hollow society, and entertaining a reader. It’s a real book, Jack.
Mike Ma provides comedic relief with the absurdities the protagonist navigates in what we call normal life. The imagery he uses either describing the zombies around us or why the protagonist stands outside norms and mores will make you laugh. His section on fashion uses this to effect by describing his strange attire, juxtaposing it with accepted fashions and then planting a line about a “Victorian pirate costume, in full” to slip into why Julian Casablancas got it. Like in most of Ma’s seemingly mild observations it hits you with a hard truth, “the slightest understanding of fashion is your acceptance that the world is predicated on looks and violence”. All of evolution explains what fights best and fucks best wins and is eternal.
Ma provides social commentary with a strong thread being on the current state of women. There are the funny moments like him wrestling a 5’10” 180 pound woman for hours in his room or why not straying from your league matters greatly to the species. He is commenting on the same dating market world as Billy Pratt in Welcome to Hell, yet providing you the humor and absurdity that these single women introduce into our lives. There are poignant moments where he touches on what would make a mother of his children, a Brazilian prostitute who learns to play bass or why birth control changes everything about a woman. He then hits you with the greatest lesson and comment on 21st century American culture, “They realized very quickly, the the national stage forgives the majority of their faults – ranging from a drunken night out, to the murder of a child, unborn or not. This is something you should commit to memory. Immediately.”
Ma provides a story, and tees it up greatly with the initial party scene. As the book rolls on, he buries pieces to the story’s plot within the normal everyday goings of the protagonist in a dead culture. The protagonist and his surfer crowd take advantage of all the parasitic scams and absurdities of 2020s capitalism and accrue power and resources. When the switch is flipped, the finale seems like righteous justice on a horrible world.
One thing that Ma succeeds in is his commitment to the persona. He is an author but all the fictional tidbits seem real enough with the life he shows via his now banned Instagram and years using social media. He is a man who deliberately chooses to live differently whether it is raw food diet or simply wearing plates for grocery shopping. In our corner of the world, I have no read on Zero HP Lovecraft compared to his labyrinthine fictional tales, and Billy Pratt’s tweets seemed more happy go lucky with a dark edge compared to his gloomy book. Mike Ma successfully has used being “Mike Ma” 24/7 as a character to benefit his books. He embodies the vibe that the BAP/Ma sphere emit to the point where readers’ minds recalibrate when reading his work.
A friend said this felt like a Chuck Palahniuk book. I understand why he felt that way, but this is an insult to Ma. Mike Ma wrote the book Palahniuk does not have the will to write. He may wish it, but cannot will it. Palahniuk writes normal joes who get swept into grander conspiracies but don’t worry reader, the status quo does not change and it all unravels in the end. Survivor might be the exception to that, and is why it’s Palahniuk’s best book. Ma’s protagonist is a man of purpose. He is not a normal joe. He is in this world but has a worldview that keeps him apart from our world. In the end, the conspiracy is his making and is executed with vigor. There is no second guessing or longing to return to normal because our normal is abnormal. Considering the success of this release with no institutional, corporate marketing campaign or infrastructure, normal is dead.