Cameron A. Straughan’s The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen is a sublime piece of surrealist literature. The absurd life of Anthony Zen can make you cry tears of mirth and think about the fallacies of society.
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Humanity went through a lot during the 20th century. The two world wars reshaped the map of the globe. Death and destruction reigned supreme. Poverty, unemployment, drought, and overpopulation ravaged every corner of the world. Mankind was at a loss. In such a time of utter despair, the literati sought refuge in surrealism and absurdism. To escape the reality of the world, they turned to dreams and their inner thoughts. The commonality between surrealism and absurdism was that both challenged the conventions of reality. They brought to readers a world that did not make sense at first glance. Surrealist and absurdist art and literature became a medium to cope with all the senseless mayhem of reality.
Cameron A. Straughan brings to us a perfect blend of surrealism and absurdism in his The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen. The book consists of twenty-three snapshots from the life of Anthony; and what a life it is. Anthony’s life is not a regular run-of-the-mill one. In his world, things such as ringing mechanical cats, meowing telephones, police hippos, vagrant giraffes, gorillas eating bananas on the roofs of cars, a bus orbiting space for years, and aliens fighting over potatoes, turtles turning into women, among other things, are common. Going out about the world without pants is a regular occurrence. Time usually ranges between 8:59 am to 9:01 am. Anthony’s parents are two of a kind. Though funny, Anthony’s father, Howard Zen’s, forgetfulness reminds you of a negligent parent. I especially liked Temple Shirley, Anthony’s mother. Her penchant for prank calling and toting about a purse in the likeness of Charles Bronson made her my favorite. His friends, Harry, Chubby, and Jemmy are a motley bunch, up for some sort of mischief.
Anthony Zen’s life is anything but mundane. His misadventures are sure to make you roll with laughter. Anthony is a sincere man who just finds himself in situations that are hilarious. If you probe a tad deeper into Anthony’s absurd life, you would find startling parallels to reality. Let us take his workplace for instance. His boss is compared to a pig while his colleagues are Meathead, Miss Java, and Blackfeet. I am sure that most of us, at some point, have thought our bosses to be pigs. Also, we all have a caffeine addict and a meat lover in our office circles. Anthony’s working hours are only three minutes. Yet, he finds the day to be long and dragging. Like Anthony, we have all found ourselves looking at our watches multiple times during a workday. I actually found myself laughing my head off when Anthony’s boss granted him three weeks of unpaid leave for a job well done.
Let’s move on to the day when Anthony goes to the movies. I have to say that I found this story particularly amusing. Here, Anthony selects to watch a documentary on things that itch after browsing through multiple films where Kaneau Reeves plays himself. There is also a movie starring Tom Cruise entitled ‘Why I Think I’m so Damn Good.’ In this story, Straughn gives us a glimpse into the intense commercialization of cinemas and dependence on the internet. For instance, we find a girl stuck behind a counter as her Google Maps had stopped working.
Two of my favorite stories would be Shakespeare Unplugged and Anthony Goes To A Book of the Month Club Meeting. The revised scenes from Hamlet and King Lear were out of this world. I literally fell out of my chair after reading Shakespeare’s letter to Roderick. The letter is a sublime example of surrealist work. The pompous critic was one fine character as well. Anthony Goes To A Book of the Month Club Meeting was very relatable. The hierarchy between the turgid romance guard, B-list celebrity memoir guard, C-list cookbook guard, and newspaper, education and politics guard would make you think about popular reading choices. I have to mention The Dirty Half-dozen. It reminds you of the old western movies of yore albeit with a twist.
Cameron A. Straughan is a master storyteller. He presents to us the harsh reality of this world in a package of humor and hilarity. The fact that he is autistic adds a special shine to his brilliant writing style. We can enjoy the funny and absurd trysts of Anthony Zen, and if we are in the mood, we can also ponder about the deeper layers of society’s truth. It is all up to us. Pradipta Mukherjee’s cover art and illustrations match the theme of the book perfectly. I truly loved them.
I highly recommend Cameron A. Straughan’s The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen to all modern readers who like satires. This book is a must-read for people who enjoy surrealist and absurdist literature.
- Title: The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen
- Author: Cameron A. Straughan
- Genre: Fantasy
- Theme: Surrealism, Absurdism
- Publication Date: May 13, 2020
- ISBN or ASIN: B088LQF344
- Number of Pages: 169
- Minimum Audience Age: 12
(Note: 0=none, 1=a few, 2=considerable, 3=pronounced, 4=excessive)
- Sexual themes: 1
- Religious themes: 0
- Violence, self-harm, etc.: 1
- Crude language, expletives, swearing, etc.: 2
- Other adult themes: 0
- Content: 5 stars
- Writing Style: 5 stars
- Appeal to Target Audience: 5 stars
- Uniqueness: 5 stars
- Editing: 5 stars
- Other factors: 5 stars
- Overall: 5 out of 5
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