Books: Wednesday, October 19, 2005
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Novelist Largen believes that fiction allows him to reveal certain truths better than ‘empirical observations.’
Junk
214 pps.
ENC Press
The book is available at www.encpress.com/junk.html.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Resin-ettes

In Dentonite Christopher Largen’s new allegorical novel, smoking pot is cool but snacking on a Twinkie isn’t.

By BRIAN ABRAMS

Christopher Largen is a joker. He’s a smoker. He’s a midnight toker. The Dentonite has been writing lovingly about the sweet leaf for the past four years, when he first began penning news features for The Village Voice, High Times, and Cannabis Culture. After realizing two years ago that his advocacy journalism essentially amounted to preaching to the choir, Largen — quite industrious for a pot-head — turned his quill to paperbacks. While he’s not sure he’s reaching the unwashed any more easily, he digs the new medium.

“Fiction can potentially reveal a deeper truth than objective and empirical observations can provide,” Largen said.

His first book, Prescription Pot, deals with the hot topic of medicinal marijuana usage. Published by New Horizon Press, the book didn’t sell well, but it garnered enough positive response from small-time internet ’zines to keep Largen attracted to fiction.

His second book just hit bookshelves last month. Published by ENC Press, Junk is an allegorical satire that explores our nation’s ass-backward War on Drugs. A little funny, a little juvenile, and a lot political — Junk is full of fictionalized takes on some of Largen’s real-life experiences.

“The strict lines between fiction and nonfiction are blurred in my writing,” Largen said. “Junk is surreal fiction ... unconstrained by dictates of factual accuracy.”

Junk follows an undercover cop, a social worker, and a “black-market baker” in a near future in which candy — not cannabis — is contraband. The humor works on various subtle levels and may appeal to fans of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal or Duncan Dulaney and the Cadillac of Doom, two other recent allegorical novels that read more like film treatments than books but are still moderately enjoyable. The switcheroo between snacks and drugs accounts for a majority of the laughs in Junk: You kind of get the feeling that a lot of the anecdotes wouldn’t be as funny if words such as “weed” and “marijuana” replaced “lollipops” and “corn chips.” A good example is the scene in which a young guy chokes to death trying to conceal an outlawed Twinkie from a highway patrolman by swallowing the snack whole.

“The crucial issue is when you take a health issue and treat it as a criminal justice matter,” Largen said. “If my next door neighbor robs my house to get money to buy a Twinkie, that’s a criminal justice issue. If my next door neighbor is eating a Twinkie, that’s a health issue, a totally different realm.”

The bottom line, Largen said, is that Junk attempts to expose the hypocrisy in “the system”: As deadly food proliferates, certain Schedule 1 drugs that can combat certain illnesses are forced further underground.

Largen’s advocacy spreads beyond the page. In addition to his work on his web site, www.waronjunk.com, Largen also lectures at festivals and is slated to join filmmaker Oliver Stone and talk show host Montell Williams on a panel at Santa Barbara’s National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics next April. Largen also wants to transfer Junk to celluloid, but only if the right offer comes along: He doesn’t want his vision distorted by predictable Hollywood convention.

“If Junk gets people asking questions,” he said, “then it’s done its job.” l


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