At first glance Michael Bible’s Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City is adorable, akin to an oversized coaster and just a quarter-inch thick, but inside, the prose is blunt and cut-down, and the illustrations match: page sixty’s is of black swans smoking cigarettes in a white lake.
The layout facilitates the prose’s bluntness. Each page is like a chapter break but less abrupt, beginning a new anecdote in the overall plot. Each page is a blip in the most positive way the word “blip” has ever been used, a blip of story and language crammed into a half page, like the words have some kind of magnetic charge pulling them all together, which is true both visually and figuratively. Though several plotlines progress independently throughout, a magnetic charge pulls them together to form a larger narrative about Maloney, our narrator.
In one plotline, Maloney, his horse Forever, and Princess Hypochondria are on a journey:
We ride on dreams of whim and caprice. I call my horse, Forever. He is out near the dunes chasing black butterflies down toward a river. He wears an eye patch over his good eye to make the bad one better. I build a fire. Princess tried to hang herself but lived and now she stands by the water checking for tumors in her reflection. She escapes into the forest looking for cures.
This plotline, being one of two main ones, factors heavily on the experience of reading this short book. This fantastical journey bleeds into the second, more realistic plotline, giving the book an odd, but pleasant haziness.
The second plotline follows the relationship of two young people: Maloney and Kelly Kelly. Also in this plotline is Mrs. Kelly, Kelly Kelly’s mother. Mrs. Kelly takes on the roll of MILF to Maloney:
Did I mention the hidden cameras? After her shower I admire the lace Mrs. Kelly puts on. She taught me many things: art and literature, how a naked woman behaves when she thinks no one is watching.
At first, these two plotlines appear separate, sharing only a narrator, but soon they overlap, showing that the journey occurs after Maloney’s experiences with Kelly Kelly:
Princess finds a dog. We name it Heather after Heather from that movie. She is a sweet sheep dog with sweet paws. I think of Kelly Kelly and her love of animals. How once we dressed her mother’s cat up as a dog. I dressed up as a Wild West star and we wrecked her mother’s car into a lake.
This detail of time gives the journey a sense of brooding and sorrow. Maloney remembers back to Kelly Kelly with remorse, though most of the pages devoted to the Kelly Kelly plotline detail sexual encounters. This contradiction suggests a change in character. At the time of the Kelly Kelly plotline, Maloney views her with a sex-driven immaturity. At the time of the journey plotline, Maloney’s view of Kelly Kelly extends beyond the carnal to the sentimental.
Overall, Michael Bible’s eighty-five page romp is fascinating. The prose, so tight and poetic in construction, builds the plotline without the reader being completely aware of its complexity. This book deserves at least two readings to truly appreciate all that is going on.