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Dermaphoria Hardcover – October 9, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Clevenger's second novel (after 2002's The Contortionist's Handbook) opens with a classic grabber: an amnesiac man awakes in jail with a woman's name—Desiree—on his lips. Prodded by a pushy police detective, that man (his name is Eric Ashworth, he's told) must sift through the contents of his drug-addled brain to explain his only memory: "A ball of fire rising from a flaming house. Nails melting like slivers of silent wax. Beams and shingles collapsing into a pile of burning dust...." Released on bail, Eric checks into a flophouse and attempts to separate his ongoing drug hallucinations from reality. To aid him in this quest he turns to the doubtful promise of yet another drug, a powerful hallucinogen known on the street as Skin, Cradle or Derma. Eric's trip toward understanding, as well as the reader's, twists through exotic visions that may or not be real. It's a long, painful process, but eventually Eric puts it all together and learns who he is—and the terrible thing that he's done. This is a sometimes brilliant, heavily stylized novel whose psychedelic prose and labyrinthine story line will enthrall some readers and enrage others. At one point Clevenger counsels both Eric and the reader: "Anything is possible and nothing is possible. They're the same thing." Yes, that's it exactly. (Oct.)
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...reminiscent of William Gibson's work, but Clevenger has his own attitude and a film-noirish literary style that is unique. -- San Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 2005

Clevenger’s trademark voice and pace are as good as ever, but the settings are his greatest triumph. -- Santa Barbara Independent, October 6, 2005

Dermaphoria advances Clevenger’s dark art, powerfully evoking the paranoia of a man attempting to reconstruct his life. -- San Francisco Magazine, November 2005

Gloriously shifty puzzle-fiction whose resolution is much less important than the kaleidoscopic journey towards it. -- Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 214 pages
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing; 1st edition (October 9, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931561753
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931561754
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,034,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What an experience. Dermaphoria has easily jumped into my top ten novels list. The writing is pure brilliance, the words had an instantaneous impact on my mental and physical state of being. At times I think I hallucinated, and had to reread sections to convince myself that what I read was real.

Freakin' amazing, I don't know how else to say it. I'm going to push this book hard on people -- it deserves to be read by everyone, if only to show them the power that words can have when used by a master. I enjoyed this even more than The Contortionist's Handbook, and that is no small feat.

If you enjoyed Dermaphoria or The Contortionist's Handbook, you may also like the works of Will Christopher Baer. Thank you Craig!
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Format: Hardcover
Eric Ashworth, creative chemist, with a touch of entrepreneurial genius and a craving for exotic drugs, awakens in an L.A. jail, badly burned, thinking he's in Hell. He has amnesia. Poor guy can only remember the name "Desiree," but cannot recollect who or what the moniker is attached to. His knack for remembering past experiences is so shot, in fact, that the first cop he speaks with has to tell him his own name.

Eric's learned memory is also effected. He is able to recall some chemical formulas, the concept of profit and loss, and still possesses a minor ability to devise better ways to zone people out through the wonders of modern chemistry. However, he had been "unique" before the lab explosion, and the overdose that erased eight seconds worth of his gray matter. Ashworth is "irreplaceable" to those who hired him. He had possessed brilliance - the ability, perhaps, to cure diseases like cancer. Instead he chose to design and produce recreational drugs. Discovered and backed by big bucks from an underworld honcho, Eric and his multitude of skills went to work, producing and distributing drugs. He received, and still does, dire threats from a toady thug and his retarded, violent son as to what they will do to him if he blows the job - literally and figuratively.

There is an image that occasionally flashes across his mind. "A ball of fire, half the size of the house itself rose to the sky. Beautiful." "Between the flash and the roar, there wasn't any space at all."

Ashworth's lawyer, whom he doesn't remember meeting, bails him out of the clink and takes him to a low rent dive, Hotel Firebird, Room 621, where his neighbors are pimps, whores, buyers, sellers, and lots of bugs.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Just finished reading this book about 20 minutes ago. I have read Craig Clevenger's first novel, "The Contortionist's Handbook" as well and enjoyed them both. I think that "Dermaphoria" was even better than "Contortionist's..." though, which is a good thing because as a writer, you always want to be improving.

What I most enjoyed about this story were 1) the great sensitivity of the main character; 2) the brilliant & concise writing style and 3) Clevenger's mastery of metaphorical writing, which I admire greatly. He uses this style to its greatest effect & better than any writer I have read. What makes his metaphors stand out is that they are completely unique which makes their impact that much greater.

I found the story to be interesting as well, although a little bit confusing. But that is to be somewhat expected with stories that blur the line between reality and the imagination. By the book's end, I felt that I understood correctly what had occurred, but maybe not. And maybe that is part of the mastery of this story.

I am greatly looking forward to the film version of this book, which is currently in production. It will be very interesting to see how many of the books ideas & visuals-whether real or imagined- are played out onscreen.
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Format: Paperback
To any sort of hard drug, you MUST read this book.

A shockingly large improvement in writing style and story development since his last book (Contortionist's Handbook, which is also excellent). Dermaphoria is a love story, and an epic coming of age piece all rolled into one. Maintaining a clear style despite a clouded narrator's perspective and using ever sharpening wit, Clevenger does well keeping the reader in tune with the story as the narrator races to bring back memories lost in a lab accident while being pursued simultaneously by the police and the group that funded the drug lab that blew his memory to smithereens. While slowly revealing how all this happened Clevenger gracefully shifts in and out of ponderings on the morality and philosophy of drug use. A must read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Captivating diction, brilliant imagery, and I especially love the jaded & cynical monologue of the protagonist. Clevenger effectively brings the real mechanics of paranoia to the forefront of the reader's attention; and not in a stupid or adolescent manner. He brings you into the fear and sickness, the world falling apart around you. The enemy always watching, the codes they speak, the patterns they manipulate into your reality.

He makes me want to throw out all my manuscripts and never write again. Terribly jealous, esp w/ the use of bugs & chemistry as the metaphors for reality breakdown.
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