I’m going to qualify this review a bit: this is my first exposure to Carlton Mellick III, so I can’t compare this book to any of his other work. And I’m happy about that. I’ve read most of the reviews posted on Goodreads and Amazon for The Baby Jesus Butt Plug and there are several comments about CM3′s other work being better, or people didn’t like this one as much as (fill in the blank). For me, that means I’ve got a lot to look forward to, I guess, because I really like this one.
One other thing I looked for in those other reviews was mention of the Jesus/religious aspect of this story and its significance. I didn’t find much comment about it, though. My first question before I even bought this book was, why baby Jesus and butt plug? Is it purely for shock value? My conclusion: no, but that’s a big part of it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more eye-catching (or controversial, or inflammatory) title than The Baby Jesus Butt Plug, but in its own weird way, it works in the end. Yes, there’s the shock value, but there’s also the things that Jesus, or more specifically, baby Jesus, represent: the creation of perfect life, the fulfilling of biblical prophesy, hope for humanity. I think each of those examples is present in this story, in one extremely weird fashion or another.
For me, this is a cautionary tale about vanity and self-absorbtion. The main characters, aptly named Mary and Joe, buy a pet baby jesus, which are born in litters like cats, to use as a sexual toy. Joe grows uncomfortable with the idea and the baby jesus begins to change into something monstrous. People in this world are cloned at copy stores and babies are no longer born, unless they’re in litters of famous people (Jesus, Elle Fitzgerald, John Lennon, etc.). Without delving too much into the nuts and bolts of the story, the odd happenings are not completely random, at least not all of them. There’s structure at work here, and it’s told in simple fairy tale-like prose, which in a way works to both disarm the reader and also provide more of a shock, like the slap of a wet blanket. On a base level, Mary and Joe desecrate something sacred and by the end, they must answer for their actions. And though they seem to be sincere in wanting to fix what they fouled up, it doesn’t appear that they will be able to. Sometimes you can’t fix what’s broke.
There’s more to this story as well, a commentary on corporate life and a great passage about how society wants to rush kids into adulthood. A character says, “In this day and age, there’s no room for babies. We’re born into this world as full grown adults. There’s no time to be children let alone raise children.” I can see examples of this notion in my daily life and that line really struck a chord with me.
I look forward to more Mellick, though this style and genre won’t be for everyone. If the title alone makes you cringe or makes you angry, you should probably keep on going. If you can attempt to read this story with a bit of an open mind, then go for it, you probably won’t be disappointed. I wasn’t.