Reviewed: Jesús Ángel García’s “badbadbad”

Review by Jon Reiss

by Jesús Ángel García
New Pulp Press; 240 p.

It feels somehow difficult to be critical of Jésus Ángel García’s debut novel badbadbad.  Without a doubt, some readers will find themselves often irritated while reading this novel.  In truth, badbadbad is full of severely chafing moments as well as dauntingly colloquial language, and seemingly needless pop culture references. At times it drips with machismo, but not at all in the desirable Miller/Kerouac/Hemingway kind of way.  All of this aside, it feels wrong to hold these shortcomings against badbadbad as a story, because it just might be one of the most honest novels of the past 10-20 years.  badbadbad is a novel that casts no aspersions about its importance, a novel that puts getting the story across above all.  In short, badbadbad though a literary novel, does not try to be a a novel that people would call “literary fiction.”

Jésus Ángel García, the protagonist of badbadbad, is at a turning point in his life.  Having recently divorced his wife and mother to his son, he finds himself beginning again with a new job, sans attachments.  Though he revels somewhat in his newfound freedom, his main motivation is to regain custody of his son, thus he must earn money and fly straight for the foreseeable future.  He finds himself working at the First Church of the Church Before Church (yes, chafing) maintaining their website and its theological community forum.  Throughout the novel we see Jésus taking on multiple aliases with which to stoke the flames of religious fervor on the website’s forums and deleting blasphemy and spam when they arise.  The plot perks up when Jésus meets Cyrus, the son of The Reverend, his employer at the First Church.  Cyrus lives a life on the opposite side of the spectrum, playing in a local band, and carousing the world of online sex, in particular fallenangels: a finely combed website for adults with alternative sexual interests. Jésus’s life changes upon finding fallenangels as he decides that it’s his calling to satisfy the desires of as many lonely female community members as possible.  In his own eyes, he’s a sexual martyr.  Soon he finds himself managing the church website which is becoming rowdier by the day as the reverend becomes more conservative. On top of that, Jésus becomes a webmaster/moderator at fallenangels which he parleys into a catalyst for the many sexual relationships that he’s taken offline all while fighting his ever-arduous battle for custody.  The result is a momentum-gaining rollercoaster of faith and desire which spirals into the most entertaining kind of destruction.  As a dark, erotic and fun adventure, badbadbad succeeds in a way that I’ve not read in contemporary literature since Arthur Neresian’s Suicide Casanova.

Best of all, García seems somewhat innocent as a author, in the best of ways.  With so many writers of the last century heavily focused on voice to the point where plot has fallen by the wayside, badbadbad keeps a steady pace, and is so un-self-aware that it’s at times a bit annoying.  However these times are few and far between compared to those that are compelling, making badbadbad a fun and thoughtful reprieve from convoluted, heavy fiction on the postmodern landscape.