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Getting Wide with Radical Pump Boy Printer friendly page Print This
By Les Blough, Editor
Axis of Logic
Friday, Aug 14, 2015


"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite."

-William Blake

A limited-slip differential (LSD) is a type of automotive differential gear arrangement that allows for some difference in angular velocity of the output shafts, but imposes a mechanical bound on the disparity.

Unlax, the book is beyond most, but not dangerous … or is it? When the carrier appeared at my door, brown package in hand, the contours of his brown face seemed to bend vertically, then diagonally and the thing he held out to me began to slowly undulate, thus my hesitation. His puzzled look told me that he wasn’t seeing what I was seeing. The ink spilled my signature on the line and I flashed back to times buried in the past when I witnessed similar irregularities in an otherwise strictly ordered physical world. He turned away slo-moe for his brown truck and I retreated into my house, opened the package and placed the book on the table. It stopped moving. But I watched it for awhile to be sure. At my bedside that night I began reading and in time I noticed the walls of my room were breathing, the lamplight on the bedstand softly changed from yellow to orange, blue and other hues and the book's pages slid from from grainy paper to silk on my fingertips. From that time on I found myself swept, sometimes almost out of control but always able to pull back inside the margins, along currents of time, space, sometimes torrential, most of the time softly flowing, non-rational phenomena that brought auditory memory back to the wealth of Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Dead, Velvet Underground, Iron Butterfly, Santana, B.B. King, John Cage … Rachmaninoff ..... Tchaikovsky ... and with great delight throughout my reading of the book, Aldous Huxley, William Blake, Hunter Thomas, Lewis Carroll, Timothy Leary, Tom Wolfe, Terence McKenna and Carlos Castaneda flashed back time and time again. How else can I explain this strange and wonderful book but to tell of the the trip itself … the splendid ride? SUNBURN does not lend itself to a dry, punctilious book review. Rather, this is intended to be a guided trip for fellow travelers, a maiden voyage for some and for others, a chance to return to the road less traveled. The beautiful thing is the pilgrimage is safe, without risk of losing the way, the only catalyst the author’s stream of consciousness, the only essential gear, a bit of surrender, curiosity and a robust sense of humor.

SUNBURN, a book by Arthur Vincent Campbell IV, is a literary trip like none other I have taken – ever, and few that I've read have been as much fun. To say, "it's not for everyone" is a gross understatement but that's not a reflection on the book's treasures; rather, it grieves psychic deprivations, sterilized cognitions and repressed imaginations, locked into the prison of western rationalism. SUNBURN is about the life and times of the book's main character, Radical Pump Boy and his friends who unwittingly explore a strange new world, to seek out new life, to boldly go where few have gone before. Motor cars, music and musical instruments, architecture and a local bar provide launch pads and undergirding for the story, enticing the visitor to ponder, to open portals to things otherwise dark, strange or perhaps even threatening to some. What makes it for everyone is the author's light happy style, the absurdities and hilarious discussions among very funny people who bear parts of ourselves within.

Campbell brilliantly laces the text with French (he's fluent) which says some things better than in English but no worries, expressions français are always translated. He calls SUNBURN, "A beach book," explaining, "Too many people are reading the same old boring crap while sitting at the beach." The author adopts the role of his own critic as written by another, Henry D. Rawlinson (Canyons of Your Mind), on the left page of the open book while telling the story on the right side. His initial critique begins particularly harsh, "The self-indulgent, unnecessary complexity wielded by Campbell is what turned-off publishing houses in the first place. In addition to the lack of conventional plot and character development, of course ... I have noted certain bits of knowledge that the author evidently presumes the reader to have on hand..."

The left page of the book also provides teasing, sometimes stunning artwork and definitions of factoids and obscurities that taunt, inform and ultimately satisfy. Left page notes range from an anecdote of a Tchaikovsky opera and his broken love life ... to the problem of being, explored by Martin Heidegger, German phenomenologist ... to a distinction between the fugue as a piece of music vs. a form of composition ... to the movie, Liquid Sky ... to "the hypnotic scene from Jean Cocteau's 1949 film Orpheus" ... to the 1966 movie, BlowUp! ... and many, many more. At times the author also punctuates his story, tastefully, with his own poetry which probably wouldn’t make it into a snobby high brow poetry journal but it works well to flower SUNBURN.

Radical Pump Boy is also known among friends and aliens as "Rad, Radical, Pump Boy, Radical Pump and sometimes just, "Pump." This guided trip may refer to the The Star in any of these forms.

The author wrote a sketch of Rad and his story,

"I knew him. And this is his story. So far as I know, it is true. And I have done my best to capture his view of the world and his philosophy of existence, his sense of space and time, his unintentional sense of humor. If you read this elastic biography, it will change your mind, as writing it has changed mine."

Arthur Vincent Campbell, IV,
Edinburgh, March 2007

Rad is a towny, but he launches his psychedelic starship with full crew on board, inviting the reader to travel with them on intergalactic journeys of his own mind which become his crew's mind which then become the compliant reader's mind. Some who have partaken Rad’s manna in their past will identify strongly with him. For those who have no such appetite or for whom that diet is forbidden, SUNBURN offers an opportunity to trip with "Rad" at no expense, returning safely back to what most people call "reality."

Set and Setting
A small town, rural community, a big city or neighborhood on a distant planet, a place and time that gradually auto-creates in the fluid, florescent minds of readers brave enough to launch on this rocket into the stellar beyond to explore what's in there or out there and be advised, this book is really out there!

SUNBURN has Pump Boy's workplaces, his musical instrument repair shop, the "Known Water Authority" where he serves (sic) as a supervisor and Moe's garage where he hangs out with Moe and sometimes pumps gas – that is, when Moe has gas.

To enter Rad's musical repair shop, you have to "park on the sidewalk and descend a cast iron stairway to a basement door ... on a street with buildings that had an exaggerated gothic atmosphere …. where wealthy people once lived and it had been their practices, allegedly to build reproductions of buildings that were built by people who had been even wealthier before them in the days of greater individual wealth ... or something like that."

Rad's Musical Repair Shop is hidden in a basement where, "a maze of steaming, oozing pipes and humming power conduits, where unidentifiable pools of liquid dotted about the floor, some of the liquid radiated an opalescent glow. Some of it looked like pools of mercury mirrors waiting to be entered with rubber gloves - the underworld. Or was this the underworld?"

It was the workplace where Beautiful Largo Lips polished the brass of musical instruments under repair and there were the mysterious crates stenciled with names such as, Fagotto, Open and Stopped Diapason, Sub Bourdon, Voix Celeste ... Voix - Humana. Cor-de-Nuit. Those sealed crates eventually become a problem for Rad, Hammering Jim (his lawyer), and in Larry’s Limited Slip, the "smokey corner full of bad-tie foreign planet types, chain smoking paper chewers"* who arrived on a cargo ship, a real art deco thing." Rad thinks of them as the praying mantis and Moe replies, "Faut pas de'conner, non?!" (explained in notes). The paper chewers wanted to barter for the crates - couldn't get bank loans, "maybe because they were socialists."

*paper chewers: dainty frenchmen with table napkins at their mouths.

Moe's Garage ... and Moe
Pump Boy: "Moe had a tough childhood, they said, and there were plenty of rumors. Moe had been in a little trouble with the law as a kid, which, well, wasn't that long ago. Nothing big: hot-wiring a few cars and phone booths, usually returning them after a night on the road - or in the sky."

Moe's garage, where he works as an ATR (Automatic Transmission Repairman), is a place where according to Rad, mechanics "talked to themselves or they talked to things that couldn't possibly answer back, sometimes both, a garage where sometimes there is gas at the pumps." Gas pumps that "were so playful and benign. Moe had painted them to match his skateboard (a Porsche 930): a lot of yellow and black ... with day-glo green palm trees and other odd items in the tropical-motif genre. The whole place reeked of high octane gasoline. It was an exciting smell."

On one visit,

The jerking Radical Pump Boy interrupted to ask Moe's boots* about the gas situation. The boots wobbled back and forth while the cigar butt grunted irritably that there was still no gas. Radical fingered his necktie, trickling over it as if it were an oboe. ...

"I have to go, Moe. Hammering Jim is waiting in the car. I think he's talking to the radio." "That's ok with me, Rad." Radical noted that his boots weren't moving back and forth anymore and figured there wasn't any more conversation in there anyway.

*Hint: Moe is working beneath a car with his boots sticking out.

Moe is an expert ATR with recondite devices like torque converters and limited slip transmissions differentials (LSD) - but these technical terms are simplified and explained in good humor even for those who know the motor car only as something to point and an intimidating mystery. Moe's garage has a steady flow of exotic full bodied motor cars as well as "skate board cars" (Moe drives one) that come in for repairs or gas ... when it's there, and Rad's descriptions of the art on wheels could charge even the dullest motorhead mind and send it into the kismet. Rad’s cars can also enrich unfamiliar minds from thinking "a box and four wheels" to "the Moe cars that came to drink at the station ... all the cars were in a good mood, most of them purring, and whoosh-whooshing delightedly and one of the skateboard cars, like Moe's, rumbling ... turbochargers, as handy as they might be, kind of ruined the cool sound of the engine by taking the beat out of it. It wasn't the same. You couldn't hear the pulse, which made the car seem less alive."

The Limited Slip
Another cool setting in SUNBURN is Larry's bar, "The Limited Slip," referring to Moe's specialty work with LSD, err, Limited Slip Differentials and Torque Converters.

For Pump Boy, "The place was very dark: there wasn't an identifiable source of whatever light there was; and wherever the light came from, most of it was spread around by the multi-layered blankets of blue cigarette smoke, just floating around in it or vice versa. It smelled of ATF and hypoid oil: clear olfactory evidence that the place was the local haunt of Automatic Transmission Repairmen."

Author's note: Larry calls it The Limited Slip, not only because it is a super cool name for a bar, but also because he caters to the car repair crowd. It’s Differential!

Each of Campbell's characters meet regularly at Larry's Place for drinks, exploring the Big Questions, sinking profundity, moral issues, solving everyday personal problems and conducting business. Larry is the able owner-bartender who brings the cadets back into orbit when they've wandered too far into dark space. He debriefs them, listens to their stories and arguments and helps solve problems when they land in his establishment daily to refuel their ships. The Pump: "There were a lot of girls at Larry's place who looked like Fuzzy (Rad's girlfriend). She might have even been one of them, or possibly some of them.” - and most likely Rad hypothesized, “all of them.”

Other Pilgrims
Fuzzy Head, or "Fuzzy" was Rad's girlfriend. Rad doesn't exactly describe her but he we get glimpses of her like one with him in The Rambler, "And there she was; rummaging around in that criminal pocketbook made of endangered Naugahyde and fastening it with that deceptive ping! What was she doing in there? All that rustling and jumbling, fingers searching for some lost item in that pouch of chaotic possessions. She had it: a cigarette lighter. ... 'You're wonderful,' the Pump Boy sniffed, 'but I think it would be better if we spoke different languages. Then it would be more like music ... or engine noises ... or ... like all those question marks'." Fuzzy looked at Rad and then faded away, shaking her head in the smoke, flashing wet red nails like planets circling a fidget of a sun."

And upon Rad's arrival at her apartment after their breakup:

Fuzzy: 'So aren't you going to ask about how I've been? Or are you gonna start with that C-Flat again?’ queried the smoldering ex.

The Pump Boy: I saw the strangest thing today ...

Fuzzy: "I'm talking to you about my state of mind, here. But you're interested in talking about something strange you saw? Isn't that what you see every day? Do you see anything that isn't strange?..."

Beautiful Largo Lips
Largo Lips is the ravishing beauty from France who works in Rad's Music Repair Shop, mostly organizing things, keeping inventory and polishing instruments. The music repair shop had,

"... a subterranean glass store front, behind which a lady with very brown hair and very brown eyes was polishing a gleaming piece of brass. Her hair was cut in a manner of a sophisticated 1960s look ... very difficult to get just right. It was damp, too, as usual. There was nothing fuzzy or big about her hair, and she had her own fingernails: two-toned pink translucence. She reminded Rad of Vanessa Redgrave in the movie, Blow-Up! There was a minor employment problem rooted in the fact that the lady spoke no English ... or even American. ... Rad smiled at her, 'These are lovely. What a nice job. Thank you'. 'Nous attendons du monde,' she said, glancing up at the ceiling. Hammering Jim slid through the door and scowled…"

The book also has some hidden meanings which evoke a thoughtful reader's participation. For example, Largo Lips is not actually from France and her real name is a number. She is an alien from a planet on which they speak French. French is not French, but the language of the aliens. This is why Moe sometimes speaks a little slang, having picked it up from the aliens with whom he deals.

On page 143, Moe is talking to Rad about Largo since Moe speaks some of the alien language, which he has picked up from the organ-seeking aliens.

"Thanks, Moe. But . . . uh, one other question, What is Largo Lips' real name?"

"Sorry, Rad. She doesn't have one. Aliens just have a number: they're socialists."

"Well, what's her number?"

"Does it matter?"

"It matters to me."

"Uh. ...7734-514."

Hammering Jim, King of the Lawyers
Pump: “Most people never wanted to talk about aliens, so you had to be careful. Hammering Jim, for example, didn't warm up to the subject at all. But Jim was usually off on some pretty weird subjects himself. Jim, it seemed, was incomprehensibly paranoid, always explaining in great mysterious detail how it was that everyone was out to get you. Get you from what? Not that some of Jim's stories were not rather engaging, such as his version of the ‘tortoise and the heirs’. Or the various ramblings about negotiable instruments, which Rad presumed must look like trombones. Then there was Jim's explanation to Rad about Rad's estate in Fee Simple ..."

Officer KillFlash
Killflash, the town cop, didn't have a cruiser but he was quick on the draw with his service revolver if not with his revolving mind. In one scene, KillFlash enters The Limited Slip, "You on duty, Flash?" "Not right now I'm not." Beer on the bar, "Here ya go, Flash. So ... what's it, raining out?" "No. A nice day with low haze and kind of medium grey. No wind. Warm, of course, but not so bad." Larry just stood there watching the water drip off the uniform onto the floor, gathering in a small, potentially slippery puddle. "You're all wet KillFlash." "Oh, that. That's nothing. I was writing up a ticket under a busted hydrant..." The calamity of the busted fire hydrant is another story told with Rad’s hydraulic verbal paraphernalia.

Rad's Rambler
This guided trip would be delinquent of course without the cars. Rad's Rambler must be included among Campbell's most colorful characters. It occupies a central role throughout SUNBURN and serves him well whether on a ride in the country with Fuzzy, parking it on the sidewalk in front of his subterranean music shop, running over to Moe's Garage to hang out or pump gas, visiting The Limited Slip to socialize or most important, taking him to his job as Supervisor of The Known Water Authority. The Rambler was a faithful, humble servant but Rad saw her as more than that – much more. Eventually, she was violently transformed into a space craft, the COSMIC RANGER.

Largo Lips' Citroen
Still, the COSMIC RANGER, could hardly compare with Largo Lips' sleek Citroen ... “Parked in front of the shop, the car looked something like Moe's skateboard car but much bigger, blacker, and more like a space ship, or more like something designed to look like a space ship. Definitely not from this planet. Anyone could see that. Like Moe's car, it had sleepy eyes and no hood ornament, no radiator grill, and a very smooth line from front to back. The rear tyres were barely visible. Each eye had two lenses in it, one of which was looking around the corner because the front wheels were turned that way ... a pretty neat feature. And the car would go to sleep when parked, slowly sinking lower and lower to the ground as it relaxed ... It must have just arrived, because it was not sleeping yet. It was a beautiful car with spaceship qualities. Rad looked inside at the comfortable seats and science-fiction-movie interior."

It would be a gross error for fellow travelers on this guided trip to think they have now experienced SUNBURN. It is author’s subtle processes, the paragraph that loops the reader’s mind back to missed references for understanding what just happened, the artwork, the reader’s self-generated images, a great deal more dialogue and the reader and writer together blending into and flying around the continuous path of changing realities that makes SUNBURN a trip you will never regret.


It will change your mind.

Arthur Vincent Campbell, IV, Multi-Lingual, an Author, Poet, Inventor, Design Engineer, Musician, Bohemian, Survivor, Worker, Lover of Nature, Student of the Classics, Critical Thinker, Political Protagonist, World Traveler and widely read in the arts and sciences. He grew up on a  farm in Maryland and since then he's lived in small towns and big cities, sometimes rooted and a few times, something of a vagabond but he never lost the "lessons learned from nature" and the "country boy" never left him. He knows what profound loss means and from it he has always gained perspective, compassion for others and maintained his humility and personal dignity. He isn't particularly fond of politicians in general or the US government. That's our knowledge of Arthur.

He replied to our request for a bio with:

Born and raised on a Thoroughbred horse farm in Maryland. Ran away and joined the circus as a human canon ball. Citroen broke down in Central PA and no one could fix it. Spent years cutting down trees and waiting for parts. Designed and built industrial machines, rode old motorcycles and never grew my hair long.

Maybe not all of that is true. I forget which parts...

Biography, Essays and Poetry by Les Blough

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