Short Thoughts on Short Fiction: The Master Bedroom by Anonymous-9

Review by Matthew C. Funk

Want to be trapped?  Then I have the room for you.

Every good horror story gives us a glimpse at what’s squirming in the basement. The Master Bedroom by enigmatic noir writer, Anonymous-9 is the rare species of story that doesn’t stop there. That’s what makes it great.

It takes us down the steps. It looks us in our eyes as it holds our hand. And patiently, quietly, it explains what goes on down there and why.

The Master Bedroom, featured on Beat to a Pulp, tells of a house with a very special family—Ozzy’s family, who he is trying, best as he was taught, not to let go to Hell.  Ozzy is a dutiful son to his Mother and Father, so much so that he is trying to be the Master of their fate now that he’s all grown up.  He does this by binding them up in the master bedroom to keep them from sin and cleansing them. 

We come to learn that Ozzy is just as bound by his duty to Mother and Father as they are to the master bedroom bed.  He is a captive of his peculiar education and of the youthful outrage that struggles against it.  His only companions are the phantom school shooters whose similar struggles ended in an outburst of famous violence.  Until, that is, Ozzy meets a friend—Juanita—who tempts him with a family of a different kind.

How Ozzy’s own struggles end is not nearly as significant to how the story of them is told.  Too many noir stories are just a hook that ends in a twist, but The Master Bedroom is twisted the whole way through.  It’s this quiet Armageddon that is so fascinating and that allows The Master Bedroom to spread its dripping wings and take us on a flight to a truly different place—a place where stories aren’t just meant to intrigue, but to educate.

Plenty of noir stories merely attempt to be clever and distinct—they hint at a weird notion, a brief expulsion of darkness or an unusual end to an otherwise usual life.  They can leave their marks, the ones that are amusing enough.  The horror and crime genres thrive on this lust for the outré and angry served in an edible form—the work of Michael Connolly and Dean Koontz comes to mind.  They are formulaic to assist in infantile digestion.  They are tastier than they are nutritive. 

It’s a special kind of dark story that actually feeds us—that grows our minds in a mutant evolution. The Master Bedroom is that kind of infection.  It doesn’t allow us the easy remove of being an observer, but laces Ozzy’s mind around ours with every stitch of prose.  Ozzy is not the object to our subject—Anonymous-9 adeptly surpasses objectification by expertly and totally illuminating the very subjective experience Ozzy is going through.  We are tied up in his head and he is tied to that bedroom with his parents.

Everything about the prose locks us in his mind:  The structure swings from the stark to the juvenile and poetic.  The diction is culled right from Ozzy’s vocabulary—a language of fables and hate crime.  The plot progression is a haunting series of hallucinatory passages that gives us no escape from his delirium.

It is truly unusual for a story to shatter that wall between voyeur and participant, almost unheard of in the torture porn culture of today’s horror and noir.  Even the forays into the depraved mind allow us the porthole of a normal protagonist to peer through and breathe our own atmosphere.  Most of Stephen King’s writing—the exceptions being much of his early work, like Apt Pupil, Carrie and Rage—grants us that.  Showtime’s Dexter lets us into the cockpit of a killer’s mind, but puts up the pleasant décor of a comfortable moral code.  As is so often the case, we have to look to the riskier markets overseas for anything that approaches the kind of total immersion of The Master Bedroom.  Lucky McKee’s outstanding May is such an exception.

Contrast The Master Bedroom to the international cinema scene and it stands out even more.  Takashi Miike’s Audition slips us in and out of dementia, as does the bedlam bath of Visitor Q, but his work is so oriented to commentary on the mad veneer of Japanese social conventions taken to the extreme that it is also a work of satire.  French director, Alexandre Aja’s High Tension lets us wallow in a psychopathic mind, but with the screen of delusion protecting us from that realization until the end.  And Gaspar Noe, never one to pull punches or blunt his edge, slams us into the head of the butcher in I Stand Alone, in all its manic misogynistic principles. But Noe is, like Miike, telling a story of society’s ills as much as he is of the character.  The Master Bedroom has both an unrelenting perspective and a universal tale.  Ozzy’s struggle is with being a parent to his parents, and that is something essential to the global human condition.

For those who want to really feed a disease, spend some time in The Master Bedroom.  Anonymous-9 has prepared the piece neatly, with no spare words or unnecessary digressions.  It’s perfect for a few minutes of raw madness. 

It’s not there to trick you.  It doesn’t exist just to amuse.  It’s not a just peek at darkness.  It’s going to put its teeth in your eye and, if you’re lucky like I was, it won’t let go.

It’s the best kind of bad story—the breed that leaves its mark.

[Ed note: Just a reminder that all of the Short Thoughts columns that appeared at BSC can be found here.]

***

Matthew C. Funk is a professional writer in marketing for corporate America, a writing mentor and the author of several manuscripts that illuminate the beauty of human extremes. A graduate of the Professional Writing MFA at USC, his online work is featured at sites such as Powder Burn Flash; Thrillers, Killers and Chillers; A Twist of Noir; Pulp Metal Magazine; Flash Fiction Offensive; ThugLit; Six Sentences Volume 3 and his Web domain.

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9 comments

  1. I well remember reading this a few months ago. I think I want to read it again after this analysis. Thanks.

  2. Several writers were asked for advice while Ms.9 was writing this piece, she took that advice and cranked out a bitter psycho-jolt that was swallowed without knowing it until the last sentence. Could be the best short of 2010.

  3. Frank is right and he was one of the angels to the rescue as I tore at my hair through draft after draft. He even sat down and penned some passages that blasted me out of the rut I was stuck in–incredibly generous, Frank, thank you. Glenn Gray, David Cranmer, Dr. Carol Miles, and my Gas Man from the DWP were incredibly helpful and gave valuable insights and input. I’m emotionally moved and humbled to read this review, and offer thanks to Matthew C. Funk, the writer, for “getting it” and really looking deeply into the story. Giving it a literary x-ray. Thank you Keith and Spinetingler for a beautiful layout, and a podium for Matt to air his views.
    Sincerely, with all gratitude,
    Anonymous-9
    anonwrite9@gmail.com

  4. Damn fine review. I think you liked the story, then? I did too. I liked it for the atmosphere. Too few stories these days establish atmosphere–actually taking you along to the place they’ve created. Dark, dark, dark–I like ’em dark. And the ultimate compliment: I still remember it well long after reading it.

  5. Like Patti, I felt compelled to go back to the story, and I’m glad I did. What a voyage into the darkest of darkness. I’m glad I found my way out again!

  6. What a thorough and incisive review – thank you Matthew.

    Since reading (several times) the brilliantly hardboiled “Hard Bite” on BTAP I’ve been a huge fan of A-9’s work and The Master Bedroom was superb. A-9 is a very talented writer and deserves all the accolades – well done A-9!

  7. This is a splendid piece of writing about another splendid piece of writing.

    A9’s body of work so far is exceptional. I look forward to her 7 questions with David Cranmer. and the novel, of course.

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