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  • Writer's pictureBernard Jan

Dead Men Naked

In my first review of Cannizzaro's work (a collection of stories titled Of Life, Death, Aliens and Zombies) I wrote: Three of my favorite stories are Yet Another Zombie Apocalypse, The Best Place to Plan a Mass Shooting and The Announcement. These stories carry the weight of a deeper truth and hypothetical and yet not-so-alien reality, if we only allow ourselves to think outside the box we have been put and locked into. There is one particular story (...) Impurita (...) the most complex and in-depth story of them all, but what truly separates it and places it on a special pedestal is the beauty and love with which it is written, a strong and deep emotion and the poetry in every sentence through which it speaks to us. Would calling it a literary masterpiece be an exaggeration?

Dario's new book and his first novel Dead Men Naked is a literary masterpiece. It is of no importance what other people say and with how many stars they rate it. No stars and no other opinion and review can alter the feeling and sensation I experienced while reading it.

I am not a person who flirts with occult and otherworldly. I also don't think often about death despite my occasional suicidal thoughts and moments when meeting death would be a welcome hideaway and oasis of nirvana and nonexistence from the everyday monsters of the world of the living.

The way Dario Cannizzaro flirts with it in his Dead Men Naked makes me want to reconsider it, even though for a brief random and non-regular moments. Without restraint and holding back, Dead Men Naked is an open buddying and intellectual lovemaking with the Grim Reaper and ghosts of our departed loved ones.

I bet you’ll never forget your first real friend, and for me that was Neil — my first true friend and probably the only one. I missed him in my bones and in my gut. It was a physical feeling, a ghostly limbic resonance with something that wasn’t there anymore.

It is an ode to death which celebrates life and poetry on every page, a detailed and intimate portrait of who we are while stepping over the threshold of the unknown, our becoming into something else or nothing, the ultimate cognition of what we are so desperate to find out while blooming with life but are unable to do so.

There are no secrets to the dead, as after this life they still exist, and known to them is the exit from this stage of fools; alas, everyone will join in this secret eventually, in his own personal way; but a great death takes a life of preparation.

Beautifully portrayed characters are just our guides through this unusually sensual, emotional and deep story. Everything is subordinated to a strong mixed feeling of dying and staying alive, of meeting and escaping the inevitable. I am at the lack of words and abundant with tears of strong impressions, and if I keep saying more, I will only ruin the whole experience. Therefore I will say only this: Dario, you nailed it!

Under the bird’s wings are Neil, Mallory, and Angelene. All of them naked. We’re under the stars, in what looks like an ancient Roman arena. The moon is shining and the clouds are broken and remade by the wind in an endless dance.

Who are you gonna save? the bird declares.

All of them, I reply.

No, you won’t, because you cannot save anyone but you.

The bird flaps his wings once, twice. The air coming from them throws me to the ground. Angelene and Mallory and Neil turn into skeletons and their bones shine like constellations.


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