Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from area basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.
Author: Doris Miller
Publisher: Hill Publications, Queens
Discovered at: Used book store clearance rack
“The crowd gathers around again and tries to stop Dana from beating Rose with the baseball bat, but it is hard! It is hard to stop Dana from beating Rose with with baseball bat, because Dana swings the baseball bat at anyone who tries to stop her or get in her way! Nobody wants to get hit with the baseball bat!” (page 54)
“Dana violently fights Mark using kick boxing and Hapkido! She punches Mark! She throws several straight blows to his face again! She elbows Mark! She kung fu’s Mark! She knees Mark! She knees him real hard again and again in the groin area!” (page 227)
In Dangerous Dana, Doris Miller’s astonishing novel of vengeance and exclamation points, styles collide with all the messy force of “Dangerous” Dana Brown’s hammer cracking into the skull of the Hispanic plumber whose driving pissed her off.
Here’s a revenge fantasy that is written with the just-the-facts tone of a police report, the obsessive repetition of a Dick and Jane primer, and the hopped-up ferocity of someone shouting on a bus.
Sometimes her characters holler for pages at a time.
Then there’s that police-report thoroughness. The book offers no information about the author, but from its long passages of flavorless, repetitious, process-oriented details, I’d be surprised if she hasn’t worked in courtroom or law-enforcement settings.
(Note how Miller’s strategy of beginning sentences where the previous sentence ended lends some passage a piquant “House That Jack Built” quality.)
That obsessive repetition is deadliest in the build ups to Dana’s murders:
“They spot her way in the distance, standing several feet behind the maintenance man! They see Dana quietly standing behind the maintenance man man as he cleans around the mineral bath! They see Dana angrily staring at the maintenance man! The maintenance man does not see or notice Dana! He does not even know that she is standing there, several feet behind him, angrily watching him! His radio is playing a few feet away from Dana! Therefore, he does not hear Dana or know that she is standing there angrily staring at him!”
Which isn’t to say that the aftermaths are any picnic.
“Everyone is all sad. They are all sad and upset about the tragedy that happened at the mineral bath. They are all sad about the tragedy that happened to Leonard, the maintenance man.”
Still, it’s the shouty, violent stuff that is Miller’s signal achievement. In scene after scene, Dangerous Dana is wronged by some New Yorker or other. These New Yorkers are then dispatched with !!!!s and kicks to the groin areas. Besides the battings, hammerings (two!), and kung-fuings, Dana electrocutes a maintenance man who locks a little girl in a closet, and, in incidents 300 pages apart, hit-and-runs both the boss who fires her and some guys who stole her bag.
Here, in a passage seemingly crafted to teach students the words head, mouth and blood, Miller combines the shouting with the primer:
“She grabs his head and violently brings her knee against his head, throwing his head backwards! Then she quickly spins her entire body around and power-punches the guy right in the mouth, busting out all his teeth! More blood splatters everywhere as the guy’s face and mouth start to become bloodier!”
The second half of the book explores moral questions in endless, circular conversations. (One runs 35 pages.) Should Dana’s family acknowledge that Dana is a murderer? Does it matter that many of her victims warranted punishment the justice system was unlikely to deliver?
Writing of that family, Miller dips into yet another style, a celebratory humanism with which the novel opens and closes. “Dana Brown is a gorgeous black woman,” the first line reads.
Then, touchingly, over the next two pages, six of the women in Dana’s family are similarly described:
And so forth.
Since Miller rarely uses synonyms, I presume that her adjectives each bear a singular meaning. Gorgeous is rare, but it’s no lovely, and certainly not a beautiful, both of which imply a grace and an inner life the vicious Dana lacks. Sadly, Miller is too busy with the brutality to ever demonstrate those differences to us, but my guess is that, in the world of Dangerous Dana, the lovely and the beautiful won’t be power-punching anyone right in the mouth.
Some 200 pages in, Dana’s neighbor Mark passes her a note even though they’re alone together in his apartment. It reads, “I LOVE YOU, AND I WANT TO MAKE LOVE TO YOU: MARK.”
(I searched through the Gospels. It’s not in there.)
Three paragraphs later, “Dana violently kicks Mark real hard in the groin.” Repeatedly. Then she busts his eye, breaks his nose and jaw, and the two of them crash around his apartment for two dense pages.
“Then he unzips his pants and tries to force oral sex on Dana! He tries to jam his penis into her mouth! He tries very hard to jam his penis into Dana’s mouth, but is having a hard time doing so because Dana has her mouth tightly shut! Her mouth remains tightly shut as Mark tries to force his penis into her mouth!”
Sometimes I suspect that the book is actually the world’s longest palindrome.
Anyway, you can probably guess the next sentence:
“As Mark tries to force his penis into Dana’s mouth, she suddenly opens her mouth wide and bites down real hard onto his penis! Mark lets out a bloodcurdling scream! He is in pain! He tries to break his penis away from Dana’s teeth grip, but she still keeps biting down on his penis, not letting go!”
And that, children, is what made Dana so dangerous. They say that sometimes, on a quiet night, when the moon is full, you can sill hear her out there, biting real hard with her teeth grip.
[The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice‘s sister paper, The Pitch.]
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