Review: Uzodinma Okehi’s House of Hunger – Patrick Kosiewicz
August 20, 2023
Uzodinma Okehi, aka Blue Okoye, (b.1977 Uzodinma Chizomam Okehi) aka Chiz, Chizach, Chiza-mom, aka Dina, Dinma, aka U, aka U-D, Uzi, Uzo, aka that fuckin’ guy; in his book, House of Hunger, the new bildungsroman is a word-track to a 90’s playlist (insert your songs and artists here and start reading; trust me, it works…Richie Hawtin, The Prodigy, Wu-Tang, Stone Temple Pilots, Aaliyah, Mazzy Star, Montell Jordan, whoever). It’s a look into the formative years of the ronin raconteur we all know and love, or forgot, or hate, or never heard of…the now-wise auteur informed by the earthen rhythms of Fela Kuti, celestial melodies of John Coltrane, and stark humor and bushido resolve of Toshiro Mifune’s black-and-white samurai conduits, to whom the mic is the pen, the horn is the pen, the sword the pen.
I couldn’t help but remember some of my past conversations with him when reading this book, particularly one about a scene (I think) from Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan, where the main character spelunks down into an extended cunnilingus session, inhaling the gloriously nauseous eau de parfum of “eggs and shit.” I forget where we were exactly, but we laughed like such drunken idiot hyenas everyone in the room stopped their own conversations to see what was so damn funny, some actually walking over and wanting to know, and then walking away shaking their heads in bewildered disappointment after knowing.
That’s how it was much of the time with this guy—despair and longing “Searching for ass, lost in a desert” slowly, almost undetectably, building to a crescendo of absurdity and gargantuan hilarities in a sudden monsoon of ass that dissipated almost as instantaneously as it appeared. And sometimes not even a monsoon, just a mirage…
In House of Hunger, we haven’t made it to Hong Kong, Megalopolis of Tears, or New York, the Final Necropolis. Instead, we dwell in the maudlin global village of Iowa City, waypoint for Okehi’s constellation of characters, muses, and stock assholes from around the world. Fifteen staccato chapters comprise this lean, 74-page bingeable opus that takes us through the revelries, rendezvous, and revelations of a puerile Blue Okoye, nascent hero (or anti-hero?) of The Saga.
This volume, in comic book terms, is Blue Okoye’s origin story and contains the first appearances of many pivotal characters (and ghosts) in his international peregrinations spanning about three decades (issues and episodes forthcoming).
Okay…Why the fuck should you care?
Because if you only have time to listen to songs that are bangers, if you only have time to fuck with people who don’t sap you of your energy, if you only eat food that slaps…if you only have time to read books that fuckin’ slap, that unmoor you a little bit while you’re reading and when you’re done, that leave you with a sense of loss, with a hope that there is more out there or soon to arrive, since for some reason you care about this person someone else literally made up…then yeah, you should stop doom scrolling or swiping left and put down your phone and pull this book out of your back pocket and read it in one go.
With the recent nostalgia for the 90s…its clothes, music, attitude…House of Hunger arrives as a wormhole to that time, a nebulous, four-dimensional presence floating in our cosmic darkness, beckoning us inside. At some point in the universe these people existed, or a likeness of these people existed, and you can actually travel across spacetime to find them. You can defy the laws of physics, transcend time and space, by picking up and opening a book. This book.