> A REVIEW OF HAIRSTYLES OF THE DAMNED (2004) | jason jordan

People know Meno. With his hands in many cookie jars, however, individuals have become acquainted with him through various outlets. After all, he's unleashed three novels with the fourth on its way as well as contributed to other publications such as Punk Planet, Sleepwalk, and Bail. But, perhaps Meno's true popularity began to soar due, in part, to 2004's Hairstyles of the Damned (Punk Planet Books), which proves to be both amusing and endearing.

Essentially, Joe Meno in novel form isn't exactly what I'd call flooring, stunning, or mesmerizing. On the contrary, the author's style is conversational and subsequently inviting in the way it presents the story. Centered on Brian Oswald, the book follows the protagonist through the ever-present debacles of teenage life, and we soon learn that Oswald's attraction to punk music is just as important as the deeper struggles in which he engages (e.g. relationships, social interaction, et cetera). For the most part, Hairstyles of the Damned is at its pinnacle when Brian Oswald immerses himself in the counterculture punk scene, yet concurrently displays his adoration for members of the opposite sex by softening his image.

Like all works written by fallible people, though, there are some slight incongruities loitering amongst the pages of this 270-page monster. First of all, since most of the novel relies on traditional elements to relay its point(s), the experimental sections just don't fit with the book's overall format. I'm only going to allude to them here, because they're easily recognizable even if stumbled upon. Second, there are minute issues that need addressing such as infrequent misspellings, awkward transitions, and the lack of an index (I love me some indexes). But at any rate, I didn't expect Hairstyles of the Damned to be impervious to reasonable, succinct criticism.

I'm of the opinion that Meno's short fiction (i.e. "Astronaut of the Year," "Animals in the Zoo," and copious other stories that begin with the letter "A") cannot be usurped by anything else he writes. Lamentably, I haven't read Tender As Hellfire (St. Martin's, 1999) or How the Hula Girl Sings (HarperCollins, 2001), but if Hairstyles is any indication, then count me in. While the occasional ailment plagues Meno's latest full-length, it's still the type of book that has the power to lure readers and non-readers alike with its captivating prose. Drinks all around!

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

Jason Jordan is many things. He is staff reviewer for this magazine. He was the host of the BEAN STREET READING SERIES. He is an editor of The IUS Review. He has been a featured writer at the Tuesday Night Reading Series in Evansville, Indiana. His writing appears in THE EDWARD SOCIETY and THE2NDHAND. He is currently on a seven-week book tour promoting his forthcoming novel, Powering The Devil's Circus. He is a writer.