Things I Love: Ryan Boudinot’s "The Littlest Hitler"

Things I Love (pronounced Thiiings…I Love) is a periodic column on RCY. RecentThings I (have) Loved include, but are not limited to: America Ferrera’s Golden Globes dress, the word ‘expunge,’ and Clive Owen, as both an actor and a big bag of sex. But the current Thing I Love most of all is:

This book:

It’s, like, awesome. (Despite the fact that the cover is really freaking ugly and the perfect example of a good concept whose execution has gone horribly, horribly wrong.)

I would say it’s Vonnegutesque–but politically and culturally current. Tarantinoesque, with empathy. McSweeneysesque, with less self-conscious hipster irony, because the author is too angry with the crap state of the world to be truly disaffected. But really, The Littlest Hitler is its own special brand of -esque, its own special amalgam chronicling a particular time in history (where the Information Age rubs up against the Age of Terror), happening to a particular kind of person (corporate drones, kids, yuppies, and flautists), in a particular kind of idiom: violent black comedy. Young boys alternately dress up like Adolf Hitler for Halloween and are drafted into state-sponsored patricide. Dead guys work on assembly lines and foxy work colleagues wear bee-beards around the office. Phrases like ‘twisted imagination’ and ‘dark dystopia’ and ‘eerily prescient social commentary’ spring to mind, but, at heart, The Littlest Hitler is a collection of short stories for angry geeks with a sense of humor and a taste for blood, dark absurdism on a diet of axes and fillet knives.

For the perversely imaginative, Boudinot has you at hello: the pitches behind these stories are an exploitation fanboy’s wet dream. (“You mean the kid…actually has to kill his own parents? He’s been drafted by the government to do this? And, like–with a knife? Dude, that is FUCKED.”) But what takes the book from creepy polemic to a Thing I Love is the way Boudinot creates first-person narrators as distinct characters, with distinct voices, who are relatable, and–dare I say it? Yes, I dare: real. The best stories of the bunch aren’t the gory ones, the ones where salesmen are shot in the head for making snarky comments at sales meetings. The subtly realist stories–an old, lonely pharmacist tries to reach out to his prickly new neighbor; old friends attempt to reconnect over dinner and a game of Cranium; a man fears the repercussions, post 9/11, of reporting his Somali neighbors for beating their children–are twice as effective as their effed-up bretheren. Boudinot harnesses just as much seething unrest in a story about kids going to a Doctor Who convention as he does in a (hysterical) snapshot of a nice suburban family of cannibals.

Ryan Boudinot, if you ever come across this while Googling yourself (there’s no shame; we all do it, for God’s sake)–drop me a line. Because you, sir, are one of the Thiiiings…I Love.



One Response to “Things I Love: Ryan Boudinot’s "The Littlest Hitler"”

  1. J Says:

    You really should include a link to the inspiration for this new feature. It just makes it that much more fabulous (and perhaps, one day, you too can be super rich and convince a museum to put on a show of “Thiiings. . . I Love : The Many Collections of Kate Racculia”). Here ya go:

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