Agnes in the Fifth Bardo
“Drat, I’m Dead!” With these simple words, Agnes Blatt begins her journey through the afterlife. In the first few days following her death, she crosses paths with Jerry, her high school crush, and Patsy, an intrepid and charming dog.
The three become entangled; they spend the rest of the book defending their union. They fight their way past demons and angels, gods and goddesses in a variety of exotic realms. By the end of the story, they can truthfully say they have been to hell and back.
From Agnes in the Fifth Bardo
CHAPTER 31 – IN THE SPIDER’S NEST
I wielded the knife and cut a hole in the river. We whooshed down the whirlpool and into the inky black void I knew so well. I wondered what would happen if we stayed in the void for a while. What happens, it turns out, is that we start to fall faster.
“Agnes!” Jerry was flailing in the air. Patsy was frozen, her tail between her legs, with wide open brown eyes. She whimpered softly.
I reached out the knife and cut. The void expelled us so violently, I thought we might have broken some bones. Then I remembered we didn’t have any bones.
“Is everyone okay?” I saw my conjoined buddies nod.
We looked around, trying to assess where we had landed. An inky black darkness surrounded us on all sides. There was no sky above us, and only darkness below. A red hourglass was faintly visible. Then a thousand eyes blinked.
“Who are you?”, asked the black widow spider? Why are there three of you?”
I sighed. “It’s a long story.”
“I trust you are comfortable here in my nest?”
It was rather soft but also sticky. I could use my knife to get us out of here before the spider did anything. But she didn’t seem like a spider on the hunt. Although if I learned anything on this journey, it’s that appearances can be deceiving…especially here in the fifth bardo.
“I’m Agnes. This is Jerry and Patsy. We’re dead.”
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5150: A Transfer
Book One of the Psychotic Break Series
A tale told by a young madman, 5150 is a firsthand account of a descent into madness, institutionalization escape, recapture, and eventual release.
The young protagonist haunts the gritty underbelly of the San Francisco Tenderloin in the 1980’s. Psychosis and cigarette smoke intertwine in a coffee-ringed world of hairspray, dyed black hair, hobos, and hospital gowns.
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Reviews of Duncan's books
"If you've ever wanted to know what it feels like to go crazy, look no further than this book. It's so vivid and emotional in its depiction of a person's brain losing grip on reality. Both funny and heartbreaking at the same time...it is an incredible read. I couldn't put it down!"
"Imagine if J.D. Salinger had a great sense of humor. He would have written this book. As in the Bell Jar, a very disturbing life is described with a sense of exhilaration. Highly recommended."
A delicate first hand perspective of what it is like to lose one’s grasp on the fragile rope of reality. The author creatively weaves tragedy and humor in a subtle balance on the sanity high-wire. The touching recount of emotions and events are easy to read, understand and emphasize with. I highly recommend 5150. It sheds a light into the darkness of the what happens when we fall.
This was a page turner...interesting and fun to read. It made me go look up more about the Buddhist idea of the Bardo, an intermediate or transitional, state between death and rebirth. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series...