Michael Mahoney, “Gothic Violence” (2021) – In case you go looking for it, the author of this book goes by “Mike Ma,” and is a D-list fascist social media figure, a former running boy for Milo Yiannopolous (one only wonders what absurd abuses Yiannopolous would make a notionally straight dumbass go through to belong in his circles; and one is much more shaken by the knowledge that whatever Mahoney did for Yiannopolous, it was likely more honest and less demeaning than anything else Mahoney had ever done). I don’t play with these fascists and their nicknames- when I reviewed Mahoney’s last book, the worst book I read last year, I hadn’t bothered to google him. I saw Mahoney give his new novel five stars and beg for purchases of his self-published work and reviews to help further juice sales, but only by people who had read it, he insisted. Well, who am I to deny such a cri de couer? Especially when I can illegally download the book online (if Mahoney wants one red cent from me, he can come find me in Boston and have the “authentic experience” he is always whining about trying to get his thirteen-twenty-nine)?
At first, I was thinking this one might be better than “Harassment Architecture,” Mahoney’s prior and first literary effort. After all, “Gothic Violence” has a plot, which should be a marked improvement on its predecessor, which didn’t really have one. “Gothic Violence” follows a Mahoney-Marty-Stu narrator character who belongs to a group of Florida-based fascist surfers who use violence of various kinds to disrupt our corrupt social order. “Surf Nazis Must Conquer,” or, a callow brain-damaged Chuck Palahniuk’s take on “The Turner Diaries” – doesn’t sound good, sounds better than “Harassment Architecture.”
Well, Mahoney manages to disappoint even these low expectations. He can’t concentrate on a plot because he fancies he has important things to say. He thinks he’s an aesthete and a philosopher. So you get long (this isn’t a long book, but still) passages of undergrad writing workshop-style prose describing dreams and visions, interspersed with what there is of the plot and various manifesto-style passages about this or that thing that bothers him (his trans panic, a lot of stuff about lifting weights and drinking raw milk). It hasn’t got much more focus than “Harassment Architecture,” even with the notional inclusion of a plot.
Mahoney attracts attention for his prominence on “accelerationist” social media (“accelerationist” was a lefty thing, for a long time, still is in some quarters, but has mostly migrated to the fascist right- like “libertarian”). To the extent there’s a point to all this, it’s the destruction of our social order through violence and terror and the reemergence of “natural” “strong” men, our natural leaders, yadda yadda. Would these strong natural men have as much patience as Mahoney seems to expect they’d have for his shitty maunderings, or would they whack him with a stick to stop the noise? The idea that anyone even remotely close to an ubermensch, however defined, would want to bother with books like this isn’t the dumbest part of the “might makes right” apocalypse scenario, but it’s the part I thought about most often.
At the end, after his gang routs the system from Florida, the Mahoney-Marty-Stu wanders the beach and encounters a magical hangman who makes some dumb speeches, and then Mahoney makes his own little speech (he doesn’t indicate the hangman hangs around to listen- the closest to realism this book gets) about how whether damned or saved, he will never be ordinary (he says “average,” because he is stupid, a bad writer, a worse “traditionalist,” and can’t help but punt to rationalist-statistical language, even at the apotheosis of his transcendence- what he means is ordinary).
The only way in which any of this — this book, Mahoney’s performance of self, the whole tableau — could be regarded as anything other than ordinary is that it’s unusually shoddy, amateurish. Even then, it’s probably about ordinary for self-published work in that regard, too. He cribs flagrantly from a cheap list of recent literary figures — Palahniuk, Brett Easton Ellis, Tao Lin — that rank high among both the noxious cultural weeds (I have some time for Palahniuk but he probably hasn’t been good for literature) and the commonest role models for young men who fancy themselves literary. He can’t help but make fussy little points about lifestyle while he’s trying to pretend to be above it all. Completely predictable ones, too, for deeply insecure boys of his generation: lifting weights (why always lifting? Sheer muscle mass won’t help you that much), undercooked meat, old clothes, the usual mask-off context-collapse “I need to bolster my manhood and don’t care who notices how frantic and embarrassing my efforts in that direction are” stuff. Celebrity culture stuff, can’t keep himself from that, either- weirdly old, too, he was born in the nineties but obsesses over The Strokes, of all bands- are they retro, now?
Above all, you see the desperate desire for self-expression, the utter incapacity to get a point across, the dim quarter-awareness (less in the content than in the tone) of the bourgeois boy raised to believe that he has things to say that, in fact, he has nothing at all in his mind that’s worth the breath coming out his lungs, not that that’s going to stop him. That combination is as ordinary as grass, and has a banal origin: we didn’t tax his parents enough to force him to work for a living. Just another thing for us to fix- stick it on the list. ‘