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Dead Men Naked Paperback – April 26, 2017
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Top customer reviews
Dario's new book and his first novel Dead Men Naked is a literary masterpiece. It is of no importance what other people say and with how many stars they rate it. No stars and no other opinion and review can alter the feeling and sensation I experienced while reading it.
I am not a person who flirts with occult and otherworldly. I also don't think often about death despite my occasional suicidal thoughts and moments when meeting death would be a welcome hideaway and oasis of nirvana and nonexistence from the everyday monsters of the world of the living.
The way Dario Cannizzaro flirts with it in his Dead Men Naked makes me want to reconsider it, even though for a brief random and non-regular moments. Without restraint and holding back, Dead Men Naked is an open buddying and intellectual lovemaking with the Grim Reaper and ghosts of our departed loved ones.
I bet you’ll never forget your first real friend, and for me that was Neil — my first true friend and probably the only one. I missed him in my bones and in my gut. It was a physical feeling, a ghostly limbic resonance with something that wasn’t there anymore.
It is an ode to death which celebrates life and poetry on every page, a detailed and intimate portrait of who we are while stepping over the threshold of the unknown, our becoming into something else or nothing, the ultimate cognition of what we are so desperate to find out while blooming with life but are unable to do so.
There are no secrets to the dead, as after this life they still exist, and known to them is the exit from this stage of fools; alas, everyone will join in this secret eventually, in his own personal way; but a great death takes a life of preparation.
Beautifully portrayed characters are just our guides through this unusually sensual, emotional and deep story. Everything is subordinated to a strong mixed feeling of dying and staying alive, of meeting and escaping the inevitable. I am at the lack of words and abundant with tears of strong impressions, and if I keep saying more, I will only ruin the whole experience. Therefore I will say only this: Dario, you nailed it!
Under the bird’s wings are Neil, Mallory, and Angelene. All of them naked. We’re under the stars, in what looks like an ancient Roman arena. The moon is shining and the clouds are broken and remade by the wind in an endless dance.
Who are you gonna save? the bird declares.
All of them, I reply.
No, you won’t, because you cannot save anyone but you.
The bird flaps his wings once, twice. The air coming from them throws me to the ground. Angelene and Mallory and Neil turn into skeletons and their bones shine like constellations.
To get an idea of his background, consider this quote from an article Cannizzaro wrote for The Galway Review in 2016. The author talks about skipping school with his friends at age 15 while living in in Italy:
"We would go in the city center of Pozzuoli, and hide into a dark alley. In the alley there was a tattoo joint, a hearing aid shop, and a very small library, called Il Nome della Rosa, after Umberto Eco’s book (The Name of the Rose). The owner, Gino, would entertain his guests with delicious comments about books, poetry, literature. It wasn’t long before we started spending our mornings there, talking with Gino and drinking Espresso, while watching the whirlwind of customers – lost souls on the lookout for human connection – writers, poets, mothers, sons; fishermen, shop-owners, unemployed hippies – the whole humanity passed in that library, 20 to 30 square meters of enlightened soil, much like the sacred ground of a secret church."
Dead Men Naked reflects that mixture of ancient mystery and youthful curiosity. The main characters, Lou and Mallory, seem like people I would hang out with for pizza and beer, or in Louis’ case, Tequila. He only sees his friend’s ghost while drinking tequila. Tequila has a mystique unlike any of the other major alcoholic beverages. A Huffington Post article presented by Patrón says, “In the mid-20th century, tequila sales spiked after California residents thought it was a psychedelic. They were just confusing mezcal with mescaline (the psychoactive alkaloid of peyote” (Huffington Post, Oct 06, 2014). Over the years, Jose Quervo has placed magazine ads that depict deeply surreal colorful sunsets over small gatherings of men and women, smiling as though in states of altered consciousness, with various taglines, including “It’s all true” and “Anything can happen.” Special limited edition bottles display gold and silver mustachioed skulls. One might argue that tequila’s mystique is a fabrication, but after all, most magic is about what one believes to be true. “The universe is what you observe,” the Grim Reaper tells Lou. “Whatever you experience in your life, you experience through your senses.” It’s all real.
We get a hint that maybe Mallory has seen beyond the veil, too. She has a collection of books on the occult and she knows how to use them. Something weird happens, resulting in Mallory’s disappearance. Hoping to find Mal at her sister’s house, Lou goes on a road trip with the Grim Reaper in the passenger seat to keep him company and call the shots. They drive through a noir world of seedy bars until they find Mal’s twin sister, Angie. Death takes either a holiday or a back seat when Angie joins Lou on a ride through the desert to an out-of-the way abandoned house where the girls once lived with their mother. It is on this trip that Lou quotes the Dylan Thomas poem, forming an emotional connection between the two, in which “there was no car, no time, no road...no faith, no evil, no sun, no sea… nothing but the nakedness of the word, sliding from me to her and bouncing back from her eyes.”
At the mother’s house, in the basement, they find the books and notebooks evincing an in-depth study of dreams, mythology, religion, and “Old Latin spells mixed up with Caribbean voodoo and African juju.” It gets weirder and better.
There are so many good moments in Dead Men Naked, it’s impossible to discuss them all. Worth mentioning are the beguiling passages about crows in chapter twenty-two. Around the world, crows represent, variously, a trickster, a harbinger of death, a sign of transformation, and depending on what direction they are flying, the imminent approach of either your enemy or your true love. The crows in this chapter punctuate Lou’s action as they gather, squawk, and seemingly mock his angst with gawking, open beaks. It’s a great image and better than I can describe it.
I would like to mention one more thing. Perhaps you’ve heard about writers who don’t use quotation marks. Cormac McCarthy comes to mind. When interviewed in 2008 by Oprah Winfrey, McCarthy warns other writers that if they plan to leave out quotation marks, they really need to “write in such a way as to guide people as to who’s speaking.” I’m here to tell you that Dario Cannizzaro pulls off this feat like an expert. Trust me on this: You will have no trouble understanding who is talking to whom in Dead Men Naked.
I highly recommend this book.
- Interesting story
- Beautiful, poetic writing. There are lines in this book that, upon reading them, I reread them several times to get the full effect of their beauty.
- Wry humor
- Well written characters
- Story moves fast, I felt like some things happened just to advance the plot (mostly in the beginning
- There are no quotation marks around dialogue. It was a little difficult at times to know who was speaking
Overall, any gripes I have are minor. I will be recommending this book to my friends, and I recommend it to you too. It's a beautiful, humorous and well written novel that deserves to be read. Don't miss out on this hidden gem.