Boise's Kelly Broich is best known--if he's known at all--for his deliciously bizarre short films that are metaphorical cultural critiques shot with all the brightly colored creeping insanity of the music video for "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden.
But for his latest project, Broich chose a different medium: a paperback book he titled Precious.
The short novel follows the misadventures of Caleb Stevenson, a man still living at home in his 40s, as he is tasked with hunting down and killing a coyote that killed his mother's cat. Why? Because, thanks to his mom's grief-stricken viewing of Christian TV, she has become sure that the coyote is possessed by demons.
Though Broich has abandoned the camera for the page, he has not abandoned his taste for absurd stories that paint American culture as a cartoonish gravity well for the spirit. Precious has all the graphic content, nihilism, demonization of media and religion of Broich's films.
Obviously, the book is to taste. The God-fearing set, for example, would likely find it as insulting as Broich clearly finds the concept of fearing God. But those looking for strict rather than interpretative realism might also take issue. Beyond its content, Precious feels somewhat unbalanced. What begins as a painfully awkward slice of life turns into an absurdist adventure, then a coming-of-age story for a man in his 40s, before resolving as the story of a man driven to the edge.
But what holds the reader is the incredibly strange world that Broich crafts. Stevenson's neighbor Margine gives him sincere and cringeworthy sexual instructions that include "take your time, read my vagina's mind," and the book resolves with Caleb dressed as a hockey mascot and wielding a samurai sword.
Precious is not a perfect book. But it is a very strange one that builds on the ideas Broich has explored in his films and expands them into a more developed examination of the toxicity of American culture.