Last week, after a post-work dinner with colleagues, I split from the party because I spotted a book store across the street promising from its window “a vortex of books”.
The shop owner was a super nice guy, so I figured– even though I have enough books piled up to make it through a snowed-in Russia-in-the-1900s-style winter– I’d ask him to recommend some local writers.
Sure, my usual preference is for books where at some point, at least once, a gun will be pointed at someone. Maybe a pistol, maybe a laser gun.
Instead, I got a novella published locally by a guy who ran a successful zine for years and teaches at a local community college. It’s the story of a heavyset married guy who ends up on a cross-country trip with a flaky pregnant girl. He spends a lot of time thinking about his son, who he recently found out exists, because the girl he knocked up never told him that she kept the child. The tone is “mildly amusing” and “discover the wonders of life” in equal parts.
And it was fine, it was fine. It had a rough start.
I was almost thrown out right at the end of the first chapter, which includes this bit:
Sonny felt his belly groan and worried about his own bowels. It had been almost two days since his last movement. As he waited, he looked at the sky, afire in reds and yellows, and wondered how he’d managed to find himself on the Interstate 80 west of Toledo. He knew that stories always have antecedents, that stories are the sublimations of desires and regret.
Did he? Did he know that stories always have antecedents? Fuck off. That’s page 3. Who thinks like that? MFA writers, mostly. Before their peers tell them to knock it off. Is this main character a writer?
Nope. Guidance counselor.
Then, over the course of the rest of the 100 page book, I came across 5 typos. Easy stuff, like spelling “soldier” as “solider.” As if the tiny publishing press has no editors. Maybe they don’t.
I thought about writing on Goodreads about how this book was so-so, and lost points for sloppy editing, so my final thought was “this was sure a book” but then I thought… the world doesn’t need to know this. And authors read their reviews and it’s not his fault he was let down.
Life is wonderful. Literature is illuminating. Stories are magic.