Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review -- Editorial

Title: Editorial
Narrator: Arthur Graham
Genre: Humour/Novella
Price: $ 9.99
Paperback: 136
Publisher: Createspace
ISBN: 978-1450550789
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

At the onset, our protagonist is sent to live with an aunt/uncle after the untimely death of his parents, and he finds the routine and familiarity therapeutic in a sado-masochistic sort of way, until the day comes when his aunt and uncle basically throw him out on his own with nothing possession-wise to speak of other than his porn mag collection. Well, at least our narrator handles it well: with wit, sarcasm, and what was probably a heat stroke induced delusion.

"Most of my time was spent reading and masturbating in my room, activities that seem equally self indulgent in retrospect. Hours of page-peeling and penis-pumping (and sometimes penis-peeling and page-pumping, when things got really out of hand) were punctuated only by mealtimes, when I would descend the stairs to eat with the strangers who presumably read, slept, and pleasured themselves in the room down the hall from mine."

Either way, he makes his way and quickly discovers, via a travelling salesman who "befriends" him, that sex for cash is an easy way to make a living. Then the narrative shifts from a first person to a close third person narrative, still in the head of our original narrator. The initial shift is jolting. We aren't sure if it's the same person we have been intimately familiar with up to that point, but the inscription in a small leather journal will get the reader back on track. Personally, I liked the shift. It felt to me as if the narrator was now looking upon his life as if it were foreign to him, as if he no longer knew or understood himself, and that his life was nothing more than surrealist fiction. Then in the next chapter, we jump again from editor in an office cubicle to a merchant marine ship powered by solar energy.

The Gulf of Mexico...welcome a frigid July morning in the year 2484 CE, well, frigid until the 3 suns rise and radiate everyone on deck to a crisp.

Cut back to our Editor
Cut again to our travelling sex-a-holic salesman
Cut yet again to the Whitehouse at the onset of a nuclear holocaust...

And so it goes on like this in a very hyperbolic Burroughsesque Fear and Loathing in modern America style of storytelling. Although their really isn't a story here, just a series of victims, cataclysmic events, witty suppositions, political postulating, and philosophical musing.

I did find the juxtaposition of the end times of the world and a young man's adolescent end times to be intriguing. The boy’s transmutation into his reptilian self fit well with the de-evolution of humanity theme going on in other chapters. And don't worry; this is one of those books in which it's perfectly ok NOT to know what the hell is going on. That’s part of the adventure, so don't look for mainstream writing via a nice linear plotline and one restrictive point of view, because you won't get it here. It’s experimental for sure, and while the writing is sarcastic and very dark, I wouldn't categorize the book as humour like the author did. It's more existentialist fiction with a black comedy bent to it.

Young man loses his parents and is forced to live with unsympathetic aunt and uncle, relatives he doesn’t recognize as his own and suspects them of being demons...
Young man is thrown out on the street...
Young man gets seduced by travelling salesman...
Young man turns into a snake...
The world is nuked by greed...
An editor's personal manuscript gets stolen and sold to another publisher...
But all books have all been destroyed by a virus...
Eve is taught how to pleasure herself by a really really bored serpent...
End scene and cut to editor on trial for crimes against humanity...
Until a lunatic starts screaming on a domestic airline flight prophesizing that the plane is going to crash, and yet, our editor continues on to Florida to write the fictitious biography of a client who shall never be identified by name but only by non-descript pronouns. I love this bit of meta-fiction BTW. Bravo!

In my opinion, I felt the central theme to this work was humanity's evolution, or rather, our lack of, and how, no matter how much time we have, no matter how much time is behind us, we just seem to be doomed to a repeat performance of the past. Our logic never changes, our ideology never changes, and like lunatics, we expect different results after each performance, so we, self-righteously so, are shocked an appalled by the same ole shit when it happens to us. We can excuse it away, say we have a mental illness or an addiction, but the real reality is that Humanity distorts reality to suit its own needs, whatever they may be at the moment, because we are fickle, and we have no fucking clue what we need to begin with, and much in the style of Vonnegut, our author here makes it his mission to point out the obvious when it comes to human idiocy. Maybe if we all stopped trying to hard-line the divide between fate and choice, we could all see the possibility of everything. We could all see that fact and fiction are not that easy to distinguish from each other over time.

As for technical issues, I noticed a few editorial problems along the way, mostly with the formatting and presentation. In the PDF I reviewed, the matter pages were nonexistent. I do expect a book to follow proper conventions with regard to interior content, even if it's an ebook. This did not, so I had to take off points for that. I could not address the cover except by the image on screen, but it looked to be very rudimentary and very reminiscent of some of Vonnegut's covers from back in the 70s. Beyond that, there were some other fiddly proofreading issues, none really bothersome or prevalent enough to affect the read. I did note that the author used the ellipsis in a more European way, so I did not count that in err since I noticed the word gray was spelled "grey" and there were a few other spelling and usages that, while not American, were not actually incorrect, so I didn't count any of it as an issue.

If you want a straight story with everything all nicely written to mainstream writing conventions then this book is not for you. However, anyone who likes experimental literature will probably just love this book. To me, it had a Vonnegut/Naked Lunch/Hunter eS.que feel to it, and I don't mind feeling disoriented during a narrative providing that a thesis is being argued in the process. That is certainly true of this book, which is darkly humorous and even a little obscene. NC-17 warning here for mature content.

Bottom line: Fans of Breakfast of Champions, Naked Lunch, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas will feel like they are in familiar territory and will probably give the effort a thumbs up even if it doesn’t say anything new -- but then again, that’s the point I think -- and Apocalyptic fiction lovers will also be pleased at the indulgent retrospective. This is an odd little book, but not without its merits especially to those readers who like the above mentioned authors. It may be an emulated style, but it’s still nice to see someone attempting to keep it alive. It's an intellectual read and a fun one at that, provided you don't mind a strange trip; though I felt the author didn’t really “need” to justify the absurdist nature of the narrative like he did in the end.


This book was reviewed from a PDF provided by the author.

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