The Soul’s Sleight of Hand: Tony Vigorito’s Love and Other Pranks
The Möbius strip, a surface with only one side, functions as one of the primary motifs in Tony Vigorito’s time-bending new novel, Love and Other Pranks. Put relatively simply, the novel presents us with a continuous love story in two times, as our protagonists—Crow and Flaming Jane in Storyline One, and Merlin and Lila in Storyline Two—try to overcome villainy from all sides, whether the source is a lipless pirate and his murderous band of thugs or a sociopathic cult leader who keeps his bodily residue in order to shake it all over his brainwashed true believers as proof of his miraculous nature (true story).
It won’t spoil anything to tell you that these protagonists are hewn from the same soul stuff both times around. In fact, we get the sense that this drama, at the center of which radiates their love for one another, has been playing out since, oh, the beginning of everything. In this novel, the souls shine just as brightly the first time as the five hundredth, despite the ego’s attempts to block out the light. While that sounds like an awfully philosophical and spiritual focus for a 350+ page yarn, the novel wastes no time in throwing us into the action. And what delightful, quick, and occasionally nail-biting action it is. Although at one level it’s clear that these characters will be just fine (after all, the soul, and the energy that propels it—namely love—are never destroyed), endless entertainment comes from following along with the red-headed lady pirate Flaming Jane (a real sawcebox, in 18th-century parlance) and her lover, the Arawak Crow, as they sail the high seas with their crew of feminist, inclusive renegades looking for a wondrous place called the Meadow of Marvels in Storyline One.
In Storyline Two, set in the modern-day Bay Area, danger and treasure manifest in equal measure, but the conflicts are decidedly present-day as our couple hatches a plan to bring down the villainous Ivan and his Holy Company of Beautiful People, a group of devotees with some extreme guru issues. Ivan, presumably, shares the same source material as Goldtooth, the evil pirate of Storyline One, but has successfully updated his villainy for our modern moment. Our protagonists battle against Ivan and his cult to save themselves, employing mental prowess and happy squeal-inducing trickery as they try to defeat him. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s a toilet involved.
The cast of recurring characters doesn’t end there. Easter eggs are plentiful, with cameos in both tales from a psychic parrot named Moby, supportive pets (“Catface” on the pirate ship and “Dogface” in San Fran), and even the Serpent from the Garden of Eden himself. Storylines loop and reloop on the infinite Möbius strip that underlies all of the action.
Peeling back the layers of this spiral-cut onion reveals not a little bit of societal critique. Some passages make this critique overt, through tracing the linguistic origins of words like “mortgage” (which means “dead pledge”), categorizing the system of capitalism as a “hypertensive indentured servitude traffic jam drudgefest,” and bemoaning the “lamentable dream of ego.” But while the message is unmistakable, Vigorito’s approach steers clear of heavy-handedness, nesting larger musings on the world in glittering passages of prose spoken by characters who feel like our (slightly more charismatic, more worldly, and better dressed) family.
If this description seems dizzying to you, maybe you’re not the right audience for Love and Other Pranks. But if you’re the type that loves high adventure, twisting plotlines that refer to themselves in surprising and pleasurable ways, laugh-out loud sentences, some of the most creatively described sex scenes ever, and heaps of never-cheesy true love between two totally fascinating main characters, then you’re going to adore this book.
Love and Other Pranks was published, fittingly, by Möbius Press in 2017.