The Engineheart of Christopher Boucher’s Debut

Dear How to Keep a Volkswagen Alive: What strange creature are you? What manner of sorcery, Christopher Boucher? So very strange, with its own dream-logic and its own contortions of language. It’s a world built on symbolism and puns and metaphors, and everything still makes sense, and it still manages to be affective. Maybe Kevin Thomas’ damned effective and accurate and so very right comic-review will help do the defining?

Love is measured in Gauge Twenty—specifically, love pressure (LP) in the surrounding area. It’s normal for the gauge to read anywhere from ten to twenty percent. If it drops below four percent, though, you may have trouble—the VW may get sad, slow down or evens top altogether. If this occurs, you have to immediately find/write a story that somehow convinces him there is more love, caring or compassion in the area than he thinks there is. I can’t tell you how many times this has been a problem for us—how many trips were interrupted because I had to head into the nearest populated town to see if we could find some examples of kindness. Sometimes it just wasn’t there for us to find, and in those cases I’d have to sit down and try to write something—type into the book of power, print out the sheet, feed it manually. I don’t think that approach ever actually more LP, but I just couldn’t think of anything else to do.

How the hell do you accomplish a book like this—it’s a baffling and bewildering accomplishment. How to make it so heartwarming, constructed as it is out of the absurd? A 1971 Volkswagen for a son. A narrator without a name because he sold it for a couple of hours—here, time is currency. Men are killed by renegade Heart Attack Trees. Tennis racquets get depressed. Stories are surgically removed from one’s person—amputated, more like it—and we see the amputee shuffling from the recovery room to discover that the life he thought awaited him, the woman he thought awaited him, was made of nothing but his fictions. Your own rules, your own standards of rationality. How do you do it?

. . . don’t forget to listen—to put your ear to the book at least once a page. Hear the hill-and-dales? There are different levels and layers to Volkswagen repair, and some of them can only be heard, the gap between each note (or each frequency within the note) experienced first flight. I would transmute it for you if I could, but to do so I’d have to be in the same room with you, and to lean in close to you and hum the prayers into your ear.

It’s playful, it’s inventive, it’s clever. But it’s got heart. It does test my patience whenever Boucher decides to expand and elaborate on his already cluttered vision, when he’s got more than enough reason to calm down and tell the story that he really wants told. But it’s okay. It was fun. I had a lot of fun. And yes, the gimmick, yes, it’s there—but the heart’s bigger, definitely bigger. And that’s what matters more, at least me.

PSAHow to Keep a Volkswagen Alive by Christopher Boucher is available at National Bookstore for PhP605. > National Bookstore Online” href=”″ target=”_blank”>Find it online here.

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PS – Its cover is gorgeous. After a day or two of me staring at it, I realized I’d somehow seen it before: It’s got a resemblance to some of my boyfriend’s doodles circa 2008/09? Sorry for crappy photos [mine], but see?

When I showed the Boucher cover to P., he only grunted. Five minutes later, he came back from whatever he was tinkering with in his studio and grunted more elaborately, “Yeah, I see it.”

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