It’s hard to know where to start with Alan Fishbone’s Organ Grinder. In its subtitle, the book is touted as being “A Classical Education Gone Astray.” There are vague references to Platonic thought and Aristotelian logic, occasional allusions to the works studied in said education. But beyond that, there really isn’t much in the way of substance behind these attempts at modern-day philosophy viewed through the eyes of ancient academics and philosophers. Aside from these sporadic allusions, Fishbone spends ample time discussing his various nomadic wanderings in search of satiation for his carnal desires. There are motorcycles, the life of a rebel and plenty of random fucking to cause the reader to pose the question, “What is the point?”

And that, in essence, is the trouble with Organ Grinder: it, like the titular education, is largely an exercise in self-congratulatory behavior. “Look at how smart I am because of all the things I studied and can make reference to within a modern context,” the book seems to shrug. Too self-involved and enamored of the author’s attempt at a contemporary outlaw lifestyle is much of the text for it to ever really say much of anything other than it’s clear Fishbone enjoys fucking and riding his motorcycle (and women who seem to enjoy the same, or at least the façade Fishbone has created for himself).

Like the philosophy student who proves overly eager to share his insights with a class of fellow intellectuals who just want him to shut the fuck up already, Fishbone prattles on and on and on, bringing up random trivialities steeped in Greek and Roman history. Did you know that wealthy Romans tended to bury their dead along the roadside, not within the city limits, and had a penchant for mildly amusing epitaphs? Fishbone did. What does this have to do with anything with the book’s narrative framework? Nothing, but now you know that he knew. And so it goes. This approach, coupled with his sexual conquests and various travels across the country, makes for a rather dull read for anyone not named Alan Fishbone.

But perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. Sure, I don’t have the classical education and vastly superior intellect on display herein, but I do know when a work is engaging and the writer is operating with a clear, logical objective. There are certainly a handful of sections that do cause the reader to take pause and give greater thought to something that might otherwise have been little more than a blip on our increasingly contaminated daily radars. In “Ecce Pan Troglodytes,” Fishbone sets up to wax philosophical on modern YouTube culture and its contributions to the desensitization of contemporary society to things other generations would have seen as inconceivable and best, horrific at worst. Specifically, he outlines the premise of a video entitled “Chimpanzee Rapes Frog.”

From the title, it’s fairly simple to deduce exactly what the video in question shows. Fishbone goes on to provide a near shot-for-shot extended, vivid description. He then takes a look at some of the comments, playing it up for the humor and general depravity inherent in internet culture. Yet instead of taking a greater look at why viewers were responding as they were to a chimpanzee raping a frog to death, he embarks on an extended tangent on species domination that manages to go from Genesis to Plato to Diogenes to Linnaean species classification, with a brief stopover at Bedtime for Bonzo-era Ronald Reagan, all the while essentially skirting the issue. By the end, the whole things has devolved into a sexual fetish-based bit of Greek Comedy, all again seeming to be in an effort to show how many allusions he can pack in, forgetting much of the original concept and ultimately aiming for the lowest common denominator.

While inarguably bright and articulate, Organ Grinder offers little in the way of lasting satiation and instead reads as a quick (around 100 pages), mildly entertaining romp through a thought process ostensibly rooted in classicism. It’s certainly fine enough for what it is and has its moments – the extended riff on the Plato/Diogenes feud is particularly amusing given the contemporary language applied within the classical setting. But ultimately it seems the only organ Fishbone is truly interested in grinding is not that which sits above his shoulders, but rather dangles between his legs.

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