Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Human & Rousseau Review of My Book - HOLIDAY

Holiday is a weird piece of writing.

NVDL: You mean sexy weird, or weird as in Marilyn Manson + Whacko Jacko.

Initially I was struck by the idea that this was a kind of apocalyptic version of The Beach.

NVDL: Pity you weren’t struck by a bolt of lightning.

This idea was built on the first few pages of this manuscript where I could detect something of Alex Garland in the author’s style, but, perhaps more than that, in his choice of setting for this novel.

NVDL: Are you a detective? So you’re saying because this story is set in the Far East, in the Philippines, it’s interchangeable with the only other novel you have ever read, set in Thailand? Do you ever get out of the house? My guess is you wouldn’t detect a fly even if it flew straight into your eye.

Garland has written quite extensively about Southeast Asia-

NVDL: Did he write anything beyond The Beach that was set in Southeast Asia?

-but in essence this work boils down to a succession of sweaty, run down hotel rooms with fans that don’t work properly.

NVDL: It’s a nice bunch of words to string together, but actually that’s not even close to what HOLIDAY is about. It’s about Climate Change. That’s the backdrop. Interesting that you didn’t detect that, but instead focused on interior decorations. Probably reflects the extent to which you remain indoors, contemplating your own dismal surrounds, and finding yourself utterly bored beyond belief and unable to produce anything of merit yourself.

As I started to read HOLIDAY I was struck by a certain kind of kinship with this kind of post-Apocalypse Now vision.

NVDL: Jeepers. Are you able to stick to the actual work at hand, or is something always a reflection of something else? Can you see something for what it is, or does it have to be judged in comparison to a hierarchy of your own selected works. Doesn’t say much already for your ability to think fresh thoughts.

However, as I read further this kindship rapidly dimished until there was little if anything of it left.

NVDL: That’s because HOLIDAY is initially and intentionally set in a reality that you might be able to identify with, i.e. one that is familiar. From there it takes you into an environment you’re not familiar with. Quite a few stories work this way, but you probably wouldn’t know that.

This is, in my opinion, due to the nature of the story that the author is trying to tell in this manuscript.

NVDL: Ya think?

The story is one of global catastrophe and this of course overrides any other stories to do with human relationships or hotel rooms, sweaty or otherwise.

NVDL: You got the a third of your information right in that sentence. You’re saying stories about global catastrophe somehow earn a license to break away from other formulaic stories? You’re really stuck on formula aren’t you? Possibly, you’re on anti-depressants and any departure from what you perceive in your microcosm of existence petrifies you.

So, an Alex Garland-esque disaster thriller, what more could we ask for? Well, quite a lot actually.

NVDL: This should be good.

As I mentioned above this manuscript fragments after its initial impact and ‘fragmented’ is a good general description for this manuscript.

NVDL: That’s sort of what happens when the world comes to an end. The centre cannot hold and things fall apart. You don’t tell a story about breakdown from a vantage point of complete access to information, and physical integrity. I’ve considered asking printers to approximate burnt pages, oil smears and water drops mixing with ink, to further promote this idea of disintegration. The point is, you appear too STOOOOPID to see that this fragmenting of the story is a metaphor for the story itself. KOO KOOOO!

There are great general descriptions of the Philippines and some good plot development, but the novel doesn’t hold together and the reason it doesn’t hold together is because it lacks the emotional investment and imaginative creativity necessary to make it work as a piece of fiction.

NVDL: So you initially criticize this for being too creative for a formula you had in mind, now it’s not creative enough? It lacks emotional investment? Have you heard of understatement as a technique to elicit emotion? The whole idea is to present a gray area and not have the characters solve the problems for the reader. The reader is faced with these problems, and is asked to consider a solution. So the lack of investment appears to come from your brain, and I’d diagnose a certain amount of schizophrenia here, disguised as ‘academia’.

There is no doubt in my mind that this author can write (and his covering letter shows that he has been published in various magazines), but writing fiction requires emotional intelligence that journalism does not.

NVDL: This is priceless! Now I’m accused of being a journalist. And you imply I am an author already? I think I need to pass on Human & Rousseau altogether if this is the sort of mindrotted moron you employ to do your reading.

This is what is lacking from this manuscript and this is why it will continue not to work. I would suggest that the author revisit the work that made him want to become a novelist and learn all he can from it.

NVDL: Thanks guy. If you don’t mind, I am now going to bin your letter. My suggestion is that you do a treatise on Harry Potter or Winnie the Pooh. Start off by giving all the reasons you wouldn’t publish it, thereby echoing the hollow, mindless clatter that so many unimaginative, uninspired souls have produced over the ages. Join the throng of the wrong. And then ask yourself how much those reasons you hold so dear, how much do they really matter. What does matter? An imaginative story; a fresh approach.

Unfortunately, I see a rather old human being, if not in years, then in the sense of too little butter spread over too much bread. I see someone pretending to have a sensible view, when all they really know is the inside of a library, the bottom of a whiskey glass, the feeling of a cigarette butt between their fingertips. You’re unable to know anything for what it is, probably because you are not an identifiable being yourself, but someone who drifts, who voyeurs on the hopes and dreams and musings of others. As such, having learnt nothing from life (or even how to think about it), do yourself and everyone around you a favor: get busy living, or shut the hell up.


Anonymous said...

Shame, he/she missed the plot COMPLETELY. After reading a few pages and finding it too sophisticated for his little brain cells to deal with and thus completely out of his league, he just waffled off using the usual cliches he obviously relies on when cerebally challenged!!

Nick said...

Yip. Scarrriiiiiiiiii.

Anonymous said...

I was absolutely shocked when I read that letter! Also furious and disgusted that a reviewer can write what can only be called a scathing attack of someones work. Why not offer some constructive criticism instead of trying to annihaiate it completely!
Why he compares it to The Beach is beyond me, the only similarity is the setting - Thailand, but so are stacks of other novels.
Think your description of the guy is priceless - can just imagine the smug expression on his face while he was typing it - if he had been writing he would probably have ended it with a flourish of his pen!
Actually I was quite upset and couldnt stop thinking of it last night.