Of Kanye West, who was my friend in college and after he dropped out, I can speak only with extreme sadness…
So begins this epic cautionary tale of ambition and hubris. A bizarre mix of Lovecraft and hip-hop history, Kanye West—Reanimator reimagines the classic story “Herbert West—Reanimator” with everyone’s favorite petulant genius cast in the titular role. In it, Kanye West attempts to reanimate a moribund hip-hop scene, only to come to the conclusion that his music is so powerful, it should be used to reanimate the dead. And who better to reanimate than those two legendary titans gone before their time—Biggie and Tupac? Hilarity and carnage ensue.
I was browsing Amazon one day, looking through those $2 and $3 digital books, and as soon as I saw the cover of Kanye West – Reanimator by Joshua Chaplinsky, I knew that I had to buy it, regardless of price. I know that you are not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but the cover art by Dyer Wilk and design by Matthew Revert, a rendering of the famous movie poster for the Stuart Gordon movie adaptation of Reanimator.
The Lovecraft story, “Herbert West – Reanimator” is about a guy who in college starts experimenting with reanimating bodies. A story about obsession and chaos, it is a cautionary tale about making sure that you do not lose your path while trying to figure out a problem. Kanye West – Reanimator is Chaplinsky’s take on the story. He basically takes the text by H.P. Lovecraft and transposes Kanye West’s musical and social history into the original story. He uses the same idea as those used for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters where it is not a rewriting of the story but a mashup, adding Kanye into Lovecraft’s story. I never knew how well these types of books worked, but in this case, with Chaplinsky at the helm, the end product is pure enjoyment. I loved the story and it feels like the threads run deep, sewing Kanye into this story, and there is not one time where it feels forced or gimmicky. I know that this is not going to win any awards, but it is fun, funny and definitely a great addition to my library.
So to give a good example of how funny and well this is written, I will give an example. Here is a passage from the original H.P Lovecraft story, “Herbert West – Reanimator”
” Gradually I came to find Herbert West himself more horrible than anything he did—that was when it dawned on me that his once normal scientific zeal for prolonging life had subtly degenerated into a mere morbid and ghoulish curiosity and secret sense of charnel picturesqueness. His interest became a hellish and perverse addiction to the repellently and fiendishly abnormal; he gloated calmly over artificial monstrosities which would make most healthy men drop dead from fright and disgust;”
And here is the same passage from “Kanye West – Reanimator”
“Gradually I came to find Kanye himself more horrible than anything he did — that was when it dawned on me that his once normal musical zeal for reanimating hip-hop had subtly transformed into a morbid and ghoulish curiosity and secret sense of charnel megalomania. His interest became a hellish and perverse addiction to the repellently and fiendishly abnormal; he gloated calmly over artificial monstrosities which would make most healthy men drop dead from fright and disgust;”
So you can see that there are tweaks to the original text, but the storytelling and the feel are very similar. I have read both the Lovecraft and the Chaplinsky stories, and I actually prefer Kanye to Herbert.
The original story was written for a call for Lovecraft type stories. This was not the first story Chaplinsky wrote and submitted for this collection, the first being a story called “Beyond the Wall of Sleep in Redhook, Brooklyn,” which is included here. This story is more like an imitation of the style of a Lovecraft story, and it is not that interesting. It might be because it is tacked on the end of Kanye West – Reanimator and he knocks that one out of the park that this is kind of a letdown, but I was not ever engaged in the story. Also included is a short review of the Reanimator Musical, which is no longer playing anywhere. The review gives me a severe case of feeling left out. Maybe one day they will do a revival. Until then, I have this review.
The browsing for cheap ebooks on Amazon will probably never cease, but it will be a long time before I find another gem like Kanye West – Reanimator. I have recommended it to so many people that it is my go to book to add to those Twitter threads that start, “I’ve ran out of books to read. I need some recommendations.” I hope that a few of these people take me up on my suggestion. This is the best that mashup books probably will get.