Lit Seen: Max G. Morton’s Apocalypse Junkyard by Zach Baron
The cursed union that birthed Max G. Morton began at a Blue Cheer show. His mother, drawn by the flyer, showed up to see a proto-metal band so heavy “they made cottage cheese out of thin air.” There, she met Morton’s “junked-out, chopper, Nazi father,” who came looking for a fight and ended up instead with a son. “That was one of the first three bands I ever listened to,” Morton says evenly from across the table in a dim East Village restaurant. “So it explains a lot.”
In 2007, a shadowy book appeared:Indestructible Wolves of the Apocalypse Junkyard, the first volume of Morton’s memoirs, issued by a small Philadelphia press, Heartworm, and passed like contraband up and down the East Coast. Marbled with toothless hookers, step-sibling incest, highway gunfights, and Fear and Loathing–type run-ins with Hawaiian-shirted undercover cops, the book depicted the bitter, sometimes hilarious wages of a decade’s worth of addiction. Next came 23, a 2008 compilation of more of Morton’s hallucinatory, violent misadventures, accompanied by equally toxic contributions from others, among them Heartworm proprietor Wes Eisold and Howie Pyro, the man who saw Sid Vicious die.
When a friend convinced him to publish the journals he’d always kept, a stylist emerged. Bikers and skinheads cavort in flickering arcades. Naked rich girls on acid “with loaded handguns in their manicured hands” provide Morton’s coming-of-age. On birthdays, Morton and his mother watch B movies, the scenes set in lurid, Selby-esque prose: “The Aryan poster girl Matilda the Hun, the corpse paint baseball bat wielding New York City foot soldiers, and life in the twenty third century where nobody lives past thirty years old possessed my brain,” Morton writes, “while I washed down my junk food with my suicide flavored big gulp, waiting for the sci-fi future to arrive.” On the page, visions and magical-thinking compete with reality—narrowly vérité history this is not.
Looking for the Magic, the next installment of Morton’s sprawling autobiography, comes out in May. After that, there are plans to turn the whole series into a single book, ideally destined for a house larger than Heartworm. “It’s an exorcism so I can move on in life,” admits Morton, explaining his compulsion to visit a world he no longer lives in. “But it’s also a fan letter to all the things that kept me alive.”
Village Voice, 2009