cover image Damnation Diaries

Damnation Diaries

Peter Rostovsky. Uncivilized, $24.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-941250-54-9

In fine-arts painter Rostovsky’s scabrously funny debut, an ordinary guy visits an ordinary therapist in an extraordinary place: Hell. Condemned man PKRx354 narrates his tale with a deadpan flair that highlights the inherent madness: “I’d been in Hell for close to 300 years when I finally took the bold step of seeking professional help.” Even though PKRx354 suffers everything from organ devouring to “frustrating installation art,” when he sits down with the underworld’s only therapist, Fred Greenberg (whose ads ask, “Is Hell getting you down?”), his complaints are more about his family (his mother, also in Hell, is still guilt-tripping him), and feeling unfulfilled. In a sulfurous spin on The Sopranos, it turns out Hell’s therapist has his own therapist, as well. Rostovsky’s moody, detailed art emphasizes the grotesque, leaving the humor largely to PKRx354’s witty asides on tortures (such as watching Full House sitting on a rusty spike) and Hell’s bureaucratic mundanity (he can only get insurance to cover therapy by undergoing extra torments). The conceit can feel like an excuse for Rostovsky’s snort-inducing riffs, but a late-breaking revelation and running meta-commentary on everything from sketchy real-estate advertising and jingoistic television to modern art elevate the proceedings. This is the rare high-concept satire that lives up to its premise. Agent: Anjali Singh, Ayesha Pande Literary. (May)