At first, you might be tempted to roll your eyes slightly at a title like Ian McLeod’s Valve Cover Gasket of the Engine of Despair. Resist that urge. As you begin to read through early poems such as “everyone wishes to divide by zero” and “stranger in a strange land”, you’ll realize something about the title. It’s meant to be grim and silly in equal measures. It is meant to be a sincere declaration of the book itself, while also being the kind of sense of humor that gets you through the last two months of a Presidential election.
It’s a lot to take in. It’s an interesting series of demands on the reader. If you’ve read any of McLeod’s previous books, you’ll get into the unique swing of things pretty quickly. If this is the first release from McLeod you’ve come across, hang in there. The ground will begin to make sense again in short order.
The book begins with an introduction. McLeod thanks readers, encourages reviews, brings us up to speed. This isn’t terribly necessary. At least, it won’t be from any reader’s perspective. The work does a fine enough job of speaking for McLeod. You will get to the end of this book, which features creative one-two combos like “Fuck It, I don’t care” or “Sunday”, and you’ll want to read more. You’ll be pleased to find that there is more. McLeod is relentless, in more ways than one. Within the specific context of Valve Cover Gasket of the Engine of Despair, this relentlessness is expressed in terms of McLeod trying to break down larger themes and ideas into as many splinters as possible. Those splinters can then become even smaller pieces. It’s an interesting process to watch. This process is made all the better by the creative, impassioned ideas and stories that McLeod puts forth. These ideas and stories do not seem to be retreads from past books. They don’t even feel particularly exhausted, by the time we get to the end of things.
Valve Cover Gasket of the Engine of Despair is an impressive continuation for McLeod. Hopefully, this book will bring him a little further from the fringe. There is nothing wrong with existing there. It just stands to reason that when you’re as consistently good as McLeod tends to be, you have every right to expect a bigger audience. As far as Valve Cover Gasket is concerned, it’s really just a matter of time.