Sadomasochism. Obsession. Death.
A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s—a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.
What have you done today to deserve your eyes?
Title: Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke | Author: Eric LaRocca | Publisher: Weird Punk Books | Pages: 120 | ISBN: 9781951658120 | Publication date: 1 June 2021 | Source: Self-purchased
Eric LaRocca’s ‘Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke’ seems to be everywhere on social media at the moment. So much so that it managed to wheedle its way into my subconscious like some kind of literary parasite and nag at me until I bought it. My resistance was worn down by the brilliant cover, the intriguing title and the excellent tag line “what have you done today to deserve your eyes?”. All wonderfully creepy and when combined with a slew of 5 star reviews I ended up feeling like I had no option but to buy the damned thing. 10 quid for a 100 page novella. Ouch.
And what’s it like? Well basically it’s fucking weird. A lot of that is deliberate but some of it, I fear, really wasn’t. Told in a series of emails and instant messenger conversations it describes the remote relationship between two women which rapidly shifts from the mundane to sadomasochism, with one of them dominating the other and forcing her to undertake a series of increasingly extreme tasks.
The style makes it quite readable and the gradual ramp up in the severity of the instructions lends it an undeniable tension. You know it’s going to keep getting worse and it does. It all makes for an interesting study of abusive/dependent relationships but too often I found myself scratching my head in bemusement. This was the case right from the start, the opening being a lengthy discussion of an antique apple peeler that felt just idiosyncratic enough to be distractingly bizarre.
The other problem I had was the ridiculously flowery language the women use at times. The IM conversations work well, but the emails often felt completely unconvincing and took me right out of the story. And then there’s the fact that the story doesn’t really go anywhere. It does gradually increase in extremity and bizarreness as it progresses, and the ending is quite creepy, but I couldn’t help feeling I was reading a different book to the one everyone is raving about. My reaction when I finished it was an overwhelming “so what”.