Author: Ken Dahl
Publish Date: September 2009
Publisher: Secret Acres
Catalog ID: ISBN-10: 0979960940 ISBN-13: 978-0979960949
Author website: http://www.gabbysplayhouse.com
guest review by Northwestern medical student Michael Colacci
Monsters is a story by Ken Dahl of a man who gets herpes. The story begins with a short 2 page sequence with questions that people looking in on the disease might ask: What does it feel like to not be able to kiss your child, or share a drink, or perform oral sex? We meet our protagonist while in a fairly stable relationship before he learns of his diagnosis. After which, we watch his job, his relationship, and his identity become slowly but completely consumed by herpes. He decides that he needs to move away- a fresh start – but finds that a new environment doesn’t alter the distance between him and his disease. The rest of the story deals with his attempt to come to grips with his illness. We watch as his response transforms from scientific rationalization to outward rebellion, and his surprise at the unlikely solution.
One of the many things that made this story special for me was the way in which Dahl was able to depict the continuous self-doubt and analysis that we are capable of. He underscores the difficulty in coming to terms with complex personal issues and outlines the ways in which these issues can really change and take a hold of us. He shows this in his images by allowing thoughts and emotions to manifest through in his characters’ physical appearance. All the while Dahl provides a medical and, perhaps more importantly, psychosocial education of what it might be like to get herpes. This combined with the subtle but consistent wit and social commentary make this story a single sitting read (I hate when people say this but I literally didn’t put it down). I walk away from Monsters very well entertained, and with a little more insight into the life of someone living with a sexually transmitted infection.