Alice in Plunderland by Steve McCaffery

Steve McCaffery (illustrations by Clelia Scala)
Alice in Plunderland 
March 2015
Toronto, Canada
BookThug
160 pages
$20.00
ISBN-13: 9781771660891
Buy here

 “… perhaps even within the dream of Plunderland long ago: and how eventually she would sell them hache to feed their own, now desperate, insatiable needs and find an inexplicably sadistic pleasure in all their evening agonies, screaming and scratching in unbearable withdrawals, remembering her own child-life and those happy junkie days.”

Steve McCaffery’s new book, Alice in Plunderland, explores the inner depths of an addicts mind as Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) might experience it. Written to the same structure and tune of Carroll’s original 1865 story, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the reader is no longer left to ponder what Underland would be like through the eyes of a desperate junkie. And, as one might expect, following McCaffery’s version of Wonderland is as much of an undertaking and painstakingly difficult as any fiend’s attempt for an easy score when in dire need to use. The first and last chapters of Steve McCaffery’s Alice in Plunderland are the only two that a laymen—or anyone not chronically stoned—could follow without turning to the Joual Drug Slang Dictionary or A Short Glossary of Plunderland Terms for Grown-Ups.

“She was tripping out with Timothy Leary at a Vietnam War Protest in Tahir Square, but suddenly Adolf Hitler appeared in Pink Chiffon leotards waving a Nigerian Gonfalon. She hastily put down the bottle, saying to herself “Holy Crap! That’s quite enough …”

Alice finds herself in Plunderland after eyeing a young bank teller “with shocking pink hair” run by saying "Oh pshit! Oh phsit! I shall be late!” with a wad of hundred dollar bills in her hand, which would more than supply Alice’s coke habit for the immediate future. The teller jumps into the sewer via a manhole down the street from Alice’s spent ATM, and naturally, Alice follows. What ensues is a series of misadventures, which are an exact recreation of the course that Alice would have taken had she been in Underland (Wonderland) and not the aptly named Plunderland. McCaffery takes artistic license by adding a few characters: a mule named Damian, a coke-head executive named Troy, Ronnie the cop, Mavis the hooker, Father Patrick the priest, Cardinal Cruz the king of cocaine, Melinda the coke queen, and many others.

“Predictably, the junkie from Cheshire grinned when he saw Alice. He looked alive, good-natured, she judged: Still he had way too many track lines (that made him appear like an aerial view of Grand Central Station), and a great many missing teeth, plus ever so many lithium scabs, so she felt he ought to be treated with respect. 'Cheshire junkie,' she commenced her converse rather guardedly, as she did not at all know whether Aiden [Cheshire junkie] would dig the appellation: however, he only grinned a little wider …”

McCaffery takes the opportunity to employ several pop culture and political references, which kept me amused particularly when they appeared in the unlikeliest of places: “... I’m getting tired of the frigging crap. I vote the young lady tells us an addict story. Like the late William S. Burroughs did via his cut-up method of narrative composition.”

 McCaffery’s exceptional use of association devices and prattle settles the reader by reminding them where Plunderland ends and reality actually begins:

“… taken by her mama and papa with her older sister several times to see The Godfather, a 1972 award-winning crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino and based on the best-selling novel by Mario Puzo, an Italian American writer born in 1920 to a poor family living in Campania, Italy.”

However, I still could not be sure with any absolute certainty who Steve McCaffery’s target audience might be— poetry aficionados? Alice freaks? Steve McCaffery’s transformation of Carroll’s original work is enough to pick up this unusual and sardonically respectful tribute to a timeless classic, and I imagine that anyone who has a sincere appreciation for Lewis Carroll’s 1865 publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the 1886 publication of Alice’s Adventures Under GroundI have a collection of over 30 different editions—would enjoy sitting down and marveling at the level of McCaffery’s creative and bizarre transcription as well as Clelia Scala’s collaged juxtaposition of John Tenniel’s original artwork. It’s just a little easier for me to imagine a reader finishing the last paragraph, closing the book, setting the book on the nightstand, and asking, “What the fuck just happened?!”

James Bonner
Nomadic Press
Bonner is an author and writer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who has been writing for the better part of ten years and is aiming to release a collection of short stories in Fall 2015.