A new five-star review!
The Two-Headed Lady at the End of the World, by Mark Miller.
I have been reading Mark Miller’s writing for decades, since back when he went by another name (still does in some circles), back when Miller was mostly writing poetry about anything–often subjects that struck him as odd, twisted, or funny, usually all three. He was a gifted writer then, and through the years he has honed his craft into The Two-Headed Lady at the End of the World–what I would call his magnum opus, thus far his crowning achievement, and it earns every chuckle, guffaw, and admiring grin it gets.
Unlike the first End of the World novel, The Librarian at the End of the World,–which for me started somewhat disorderly, but it grew on me quickly and hooked me through it’s spectacular ending–this novel begins with extraordinary prose, poetry by any other name, and hooks immediately with its love of language—all the words, nothing off limits or taboo. This is Mark Miller at his finest—think Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller writing a raunchy sex comedy. The Two-Headed Lady at the End of the World is intelligent comedy set in the context of outrageous absurdity, a novel for our time.
I say “a novel for our time” with the understanding that much of the novel is set in the 1980s, and ‘80s references do abound. Yet, so much resonates with the world we live in today in part because we are still dealing with some of the same issues we were dealing with 40 years ago: the rise of computers and their implications for humanity, negotiating relationships among people with different beliefs and perspectives, and the threat of nuclear annihilation, to name a few. Miller manages these issues with rich prose and excellent comic timing. If the book were a movie, it would get a fairly hard R rating—something for the easily offended to consider. And, if you are easily offended, I still recommend this book. Lighten up. Part of the fun of outrageous comedy is laughing at the outrage.
You will enjoy this book. When you get to the end, you’ll want more (and, fortunately for Miller’s readers, another “End of the World” book is forthcoming). The characters are richly drawn, always with a sense of humor. The comedy is multi-layered and near constant. The ending is a surprise even though the title reveals the book’s setting as the end of the world. This is Miller’s best writing to date, which is no easy feat. I enjoyed this book cover-to-cover, and I’m looking forward to the third installment in this series.