Mondays on the Margins: Book Review - John Dies at the End by David Wong

First a word about pseudonyms. I guess I can kind of understand why some people use pseudonyms - for privacy, or safety, or fun. In some countries it might be a serious risk to one's life to publish under a real name. What I DON'T understand is why someone makes up a pseudonym, and then volunteers their real name IN THE SAME PLACE.


One summer, my best friend and I were camping at the provincial park where we went every summer and she decided that this summer we should make up cooler names for ourselves - she would be Renée and I would be Angela. I'm not sure why I went along with this, except that she was hot and the only way I had a hope in hell of attracting male attention was to stick by her side and hope for some overlap, and the park was pretty boring. So at one point, she leads us up to some guys and asks if they want to go for a walk and they say sure, and as we start walking she says "So I'm Renée and she's Angela. HA HA, no, never mind, actually, I'm Danielle and she's Allison."

Guy: "Uh, are you insane? Not that it really matters, since you're incredibly hot."

Me: "You are henceforth dead to me."

So why does a book have one author's name on the cover and then on the back jacket say "xxx is the pseudonym of xxx"? WHY? If you want to be daring and mysterious and pretend to be someone else, just DO IT. If your real name is too embarrassing to be on the front of the book, why put it on the back? Or what about when it's two authors, and it seems like the first thing they do before even writing the book is sit down and make up some cutesy mish-mash of their two names -- P.J. Tracy is a mother and daughter team. P.J. Parrish is two sisters (26 letters to work with, why do they all have to be P.J.?) Will it really throw the average book-buyer into such a bewildered tizzy if there are TWO authors' names on the front?

Anyway. The book. John Dies at the End. It's weird. And funny. And a little sad. And weird.

This is the dedication: "For my wife, who had been so tolerant and wonderful through all of this that I think she might be a product of my imagination. also, my best friend, Mack Leighty, who gave birth to the 'John' mentioned in the title, and who years ago convinced me to get into writing as a hobby instead of alcoholism.

Mack, I'll never forget that when things got really tough in my life, you stepped up and killed those dudes for me."

This typefies the tone of the book pretty well - humorous, a little touching, outrageous, sneaking up to the very border of being too cute. David Wong is the protagonist as well as being the fake name of the author (I hate when authors do that, too). John is his friend - the kind of friend who call display was invented in order to enable you to avoid. There is a new and reality-bending drug called Soy Sauce, there are various assorted demons and monsters, there's a dog named Molly who keeps dying and coming back to life, there are a couple of road trips (naturally) and a lot of dick jokes.

My reading curve went something like "who recommended this again? Huh? Well this is....ew. Ohmygod, that's hilarious! Oh, so when they.... hey, there might actually be a story here. Okay, this is dragging.....oh, here we are back here again. Oh, that's kind of nice."

David Wong is the (TOTALLY POINTLESS AND UNNECESSARY) pseudonym of Jason Pargin, online humorist, National Lampoon contributor, and editor in chief of (why yes, I DID get that from the back blurb, thanks for asking). This information fits very well with what I thought of the book. It's not terribly deep, but it's not all facile joke-of-the-day fluff either. There are moments of genuine loss, fear and connection in among the Ghostbusting and bad puns. Also, it made me giggle my sleeping husband awake, which doesn't happen that often.

Memorable quotes:

-"Sixteen different objections rose up in my mind at once and somehow they all cancelled each other out. Maybe if there had been an odd number..."

-"I reached for the knob. At the same moment it began to melt and transform, turning pink and finally taking the shape of a flaccid penis. It flopped softly against the door, like a man was cramming it through the knob hole from the other side. I turned back to John and said, 'That door cannot be opened.'"

-"This is Marconi. My secretary says you have some kind of a meat monster there?"

-(song lyrics) -"'My hat smells like/ lubricant, I don't wanna touch it/ Wait, this isn't mine! And it's not a hat!/ Camel Holocaust! Camel Holocaust!"

-"John said, 'Yeah, it's not a big deal for me to lift heavy objects. I'm sort of used to it, if you know what I mean.' I held up a hand to silence him. 'John --' 'Of course I'm talking about my penis.'"


Wrath Of Mom said…
Angela/Allison -- I doubt this book could be as funny as your review. And your review is hysterical.
Nicole said… weird. Weird! I like Allison better than Angela. Not to um, insult any Angelas out there. But...

Now I really want to read this book. Also? I love you!
Anonymous said…
Agreed with Wrath of Mom's comment...the book couldn't possibly live up to your uberdrole review! :) But anything authored by a Cracked writer must be read.
Pam said…
I'm with Nicole - not only do I love you but the name Allison rocks so much I made it my DD's middle name.

Love the review. Book sounds extremely intriguing and would probably be quite insightful with a wee bit of wine on the side.
Patti said…
Are you sure he didn't take up alcoholism?
Ms. G said…
Giggling at Patti...ok, Love the review. Makes me want to read it so I can wake my husband up. I love doing that. Allison is a Way Better name. Did I ever tell you I almost named one of my daughters that? Oh and I have a pseudonym for my pseudonym. Its Abigail Brown. But I only share it with people that I already told my real name ; )
I read your mini review on Good Reads. I think I said it sounds strange...or something. I still think that. I'd probably read it but it sounds like I need to be in a specific mood for it.
clara said…
Hmmmm. Sounds like one of those books my husband would like. Absurd for the sake of absurdity? Sure.

Signed -- Dorothy

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