This one is wonderfully weird stuff. Terry Richard Bazes’s Lizard World. Here’s a blurb from Grove Press founder Barney Rosset:
Lizard World opens with Josiah Fludd, a disenchanted character from the Early Modern World, exhuming a female corpse for a customer, whose interest in the carcass is presumed by the gravedigger to be a sexual one. Fludd’s blasé attitude vanishes when, on delivery of the corpse, he watches its feet sawed off, and he learns that they are meant to replace his patron’s nether claws. From this startling introduction Terry Richard Bazes pushes us into a bizarre world that vacillates between the past and present—and is told by a writer whose imagination seems to have no bounds.
Here’s an excerpt:
I being then in my nineteenth year and little more than a beggar — intent, by hook or by crook, to become a chirurgeon and yet utterly without means to feed and clothe my body (much less to learn the merest rudiments of my profession) — it came about that at length I did find a way both to earn my bread and pursue my studies by undertaking to perform a service — a wholly necessary and harmless service albeit one from which my more prosperous school-mates turned away with horror and revulsion. So it was that I got my sustenance and was suffered to sit with all the paying scholars — provided it was in the very backermost row — and watch whilst our professor probed the deepest mysteries of a fresh cadaver.
Now just exactly how and whence these cadavers were supplied were questions my finical colleagues dared not closely entertain, although in gross they knew the truth and shunned me like a leper. But I cared not a fart for their esteem, so long as I could learn, and the short of it was that I advanced quickly in my studies and was oft besought by my professors for a specimen and consequently was upon ever the most constant look-out for the newly dead.
For this purpose it was my practice to put on the clothes and countenance of a mourner and, thus disguised, to frequent the very meanest of country churches in the hope that there I might chance upon some humble obsequies. If fortune smiled, and some farmer or laundress had departed this life, then I would repair under the cloak of starlight unto the churchyard, still in mourning attire and carrying a fistful of daisies and a Bible, lest I be questioned of my purpose and require a ready pretext. The great secret of the art was to work with utmost haste and efface the smallest evidence of theft. Therefore, by the light of my lantern, I studied the disposition of each rock, each wreath of flowers — and, thus informed of the state to which the grave must later be restored, now proceeded to violate the soil, but only so much as to permit my shovel to break the very head-piece of the box. This method, once perfected, allowed me — in a trice — to draw the carcass out, conceal it in a sack, restore the injured earth, and load my stiffened burden on a waiting dung-cart.
For more excerpts, check out Bazes’s site; more to come.