David Ohle - Motorman

Motorman - David Ohle

Someone told me that it was the best book he has ever read. I’d never heard of it. Is it possible that this is somehow the world’s best kept secret?

‘Motorman’ was out of print for decades until a few years ago a small publisher from New York brought it back to life. Or semi-life, should I say, because they still don’t want you to know. The cover is minimalistic; except for a bizarre illustration, it only tells you the name of the book and its author, all in a very small font. The back is absolutely bare – there is no blurb, no encouraging quotes, not even the price, just the barcode and ISBN number. Essentially, every hipster’s dream.

The introduction by Ben Marcus is full of phrases like For a long time I was scared to read Motorman. It had come recommended to me in such hushed tones that it sounded disruptively incendiary and illegal. And I discovered an oddly tender book that used imagination as an afterthought, however potently, as if beautiful fires on the horizon are precisely the backdrop that might restore life to our identity-quest stories and make us care again about the most elemental things.

When the expectations are this high it is easy to be disappointed. Is the best book I have ever read? Most definitely not. Although I’d agree with Ben Marcus that it is oddly tender. Neither the introduction nor the reviews will tell you what the book is about. I probably won’ tell you all that much. It’s about Moldenke who is trying to escape Bunce who keeps him a semi-prisoner. It’s all very weird and Moldenke has four sheep hearts. He has also sacrificed his feelings in the Mock War, which causes problems in his relationship with Roberta (who suffers from some punctuation-related affliction). It’s very complicated. It’s part George Orwell, part William S. Burroughs and part Stanisław Lem. Make of it what you like. I don’t want to say too much about it. Given how popular I am, I might just accidentally push the book into the mainstream and the hipsters will never forgive me.

I will leave you with a quote which is taken from Moldenke’s report when his job was to taste weird foods for Mr. Featherfighter:

“Mr. Etcetera,
My second report:
1) Both fleas and cantbarides lead to self-abuse.
2) I feel I should resign.
3) I feel. I feel. Therapy helped me.
4) I do resign.
No longer yours,

Moldenke is getting his feelings back! Be careful, it might happen to you too – it might make you quit your job.