You can tell things are looking up, time, sleep and parenting-wise, because I read an entire book and a half in two weeks. Wow. I remember a time, not long ago, when it would take me a full month to finish one book.
Slightly, yes, the pressure was on because these were two new books that I could only have for 14 days (though, you know, I have spent so much of my life being afraid of libraries, of their fines, of their je ne sais quoi will happen if I don’t bring these books back on time / at all; since having kids I have tried to be a good patron but my library habits are just not what they used to be and guess what? Turns out no one cares! The library keeps letting me take things out and saying I can pay my fines “whenever” and I’m all, what do you mean? You have no teeth? I have spent 3/4 of my life fearing something with NO TEETH? No poison spines, nothing? I guess I am a better person because I respect the library, right? Right, librarian reader types of which I have many? OK then) and I was determined I would finish them within that time.
The first book was called Please Step Back by Ben Greenman and I loved it. It was the story of a fictional ’60s funk / rock star and his rise to fame and then slide back down to not-fame. Classic story but it was written so elegantly, so like an extended song lyric; I would be reading along and enjoying and then stop in my tracks and have to go back a page and read that beautiful sentence / paragraph / page again. I have returned the book (on time, bitches) so I can’t quote it but I really enjoyed it. Except for the ending, which I did not enjoy, not in an “I enjoy it but it’s depressing like Canadian dysfunctional family literature” way but more in a “I don’t enjoy it, it’s a cop-out and I saw it coming three pages ago” way.
I even finished it within 10 days, which, if you only have 15 minutes a night, is like some kind of miracle. I was high on life, high on great writing, happy to move on to the second book, Boldface Names by Shinan Govani, which had been sitting right next to Please Step Back in the “new fiction” section.
Have you heard of Shinan Govani? He has. He has heard of him. He is wonderful, he is. So wonderful he wrote a book about himself. He calls himself something else but he, Shinan, is a gossip columnist and he wrote a book about a gossip columnist and then he filled it with lots of gossip and then more veiled references to gossip and then bam! it got published! The country is all a-flutter and a-titter and madly trying to guess who is who in this madcap book! What a clever romp!
Govani is a society pages guy for the National Post. By all accounts, he is good at his job. He gets around, he sees famous people doing stuff, he is snarky about it. And let me be clear. I do not have a problem with gossip, gossip columnists or gossipy books – hell, I watch Gossip Girl and I read Star by Pamela Anderson and I even enjoyed it – enough to finish it – because for one thing she let someone help her write it and for another, it was funny, as in, clever. But also? It did not make a mockery of the following tradition: WORDS MEAN THINGS. A tradition I cherish.
As the Winnipeg Free Press put it, so succinctly, he can gossip but not write. (And PS, Winnipeg Free Press, yours is the only negative review I could find after at least ten minutes of searching, and so I will be kissing you with lots of tongue post-haste because MAN OH MAN was this a bad book. Just fucking awful. Worse than The DaVinci Code.) Their review quotes the following sentence as an example and I am sad to say it is not even the worst example, where [our hero spots] “…a woman who looked like local neo-hippie songbird Feist but was actually a woman with bangs who only looked like Feist.”
I went looking for reviews because I thought there was something I was missing. I thought surely there was a joke I wasn’t getting, a reference I hadn’t come across. But no.
Again, I do not have the book here because I set it on fire and then returned the ashes to the library in a charred, smoking envelope (no, no I didn’t, not really) so I can’t quote more, but I must have read half of it to SA while he tried to concentrate on his book about the Restoration or Reformation or whatever.
This is just a re-enactment, but a damn good one:
“Just listen: ‘She walked with her jewel-spackled glory-holed two-point-oh’d Manolos clicking on the dirty zeitgeist pavement like an escaped polo pony with nothing to lose but her self-respecting neo-hipstered harness.”
“Just put the book down. Stop reading it.”
“No! I can’t! I have to see if it gets better!”
It doesn’t. Just in case you are out there now, reading this piece of shit book, know that it does not get better. It gets worse and worse and worse and then the book is due at the library and you’re halfway done but you don’t care, you’d rather read a back issue of Good Housekeeping magazine than go one page further.
The man verbs all his nouns. He hyphenates everything else. The book reads like a gossip column gone through a translator to Serbian and back to English. And then the typos. Holy shit. People are publishing badly written, badly spelled SHIT and killing TREES for it and the first ten reviews I read were glowing, I guess because he might gossip about you and ruin your career? Sorry, I don’t have a career and I am not afraid to say that book should not have been published.
On the bright side: it makes me want to work on my novel because I know my novel is better than Boldface Names.
On the dark side: now I can never go on a press tour for my (uh, yeah, unpublished, not even into its 2nd draft yet) novel because I’ll be immediately slaughtered by the society pages.
On the bright side again: I did not incur any fines at the library.
On the dark side again: I seem to have more to say about the book I hated and didn’t finish than the book I loved. Except one more thing: you can hear a recording of one of the songs from the book I loved (Please Step Back,) as interpreted by Swamp Dogg, if you go here.
There. Leaving you on the bright side, I am.