Mastodon Farm is not for everyone but those who give it a chance will be rewarded handsomely for their efforts. You may walk away with a slight concussion and a temporary onset of low-grade anxiety, but such admission fees are a small price to pay for taking an eye-opening ride with this distinctly thought-provoking beast.
The book moves quickly, broken into brief chapters that reference bits of pop culture. James Franco seems to have raised the ire of Kleine, possibly because of his foray into writing, but the assortment of celebrities that stumble into scene and wander back out is refreshingly random. I think the best way to describe the actual act of reading this book would be something like watching a b-movie. Kleine could've easily fallen into the same trap as the books he parodies by taking himself too seriously, but he avoids this seemingly effortlessly.
5.2 x 8.0 inches
As for a "proper" story, there is none. The sentences are short, deceptively simple and sometimes mind-blowingly, sickly funny. The chapters themselves are short, usually only one or two pages long. Most of the chapters feel like separate short stories in themselves: they are "whole" on their own, and even though they do not tell a story and contain "nothing", their emptiness feels like a form of wholeness, and the "nothing" they contain often manages to break my heart.
Lines of numbness become things of pure beauty. Words are completely naked in their meaning. The things that are unsaid are far more interesting. By the very end of the book an overwhelming sense of calm prevails. At this point the constant reference to you syncs you up with the mind of the protagonist. Mastodon Farm is one of the most realistic, painstaking portrayals of an obsessive knack for self-definition through culture.
There are brief moments of full blown surrealism, like when the sky turns purple and rains cum. But for the most part, Kleine describes the world of Mastodon Farm in subtly weird ways. New York City and Los Angeles are apparently the same city. Seattle and Miami can be reached in a few hours by car. It seems to take place in modern day, yet VHS tapes are still the format movies are watched on.
It is about you. You are famous. Or at least you hang out with many famous people. You always listen to music when you drive your Ferrari. You like the band Vampire Weekend. You go places and do things and then go other places and do other things or the same things. That's about it. This book is simultaneously vague (there is no reason why you do these things, or even detailed descriptions of what you are doing) and specific (almost everything you do is linked to some pop culture material, a band, an actor, a clothing company, an author)
I'd rank this book up there with Fabulous Nobodies and I Pass Like Night, both books that I'll never forget the experience of reading.