Saturday, July 08, 2006

Make It Stop

Charlene was talking about beach reads yesterday over at RTB, and that got me hunting around for some offbeat opinions on what to take with the sunscreen. Which lead to yet another example of why literary books desperately need new PR.

Yes, I've bitched about it before, but the blurbs are actually getting worse. Don't believe me? Here's a book described by the Village Voice* as a beach read:

"Sued because the ineradicable graffiti from his company's "Eter-No-Mark" pens has metastasized throughout the city, young Manhattan exec Chad Roe [1] spirals into a lost weekend of booze, drugs, and self-loathing [2]; passed out, he is maliciously tattooed with his own bread and butter[3]. A yuppie Queequeg[4], his appearance repels and fascinates onlookers but is shortly trumped by the horrors of 9-11 [5], from which he staggers to a dilapidated American history theme park filled with squatters [6]partying amid the three-story stucco heads of dead presidents. Sans dialogue [7], entwining poetic captions—"the slippery meat-dream of life" [8]—with beautifully composed ink drawings [9], this hallucinatory tale finds a Burning Man catharsis at the heart of a jittery nation [10]."

First and lasting impressions, by the numbers:

1. Naming the protagonist after the egg-laden ovary of a fish does not make one the next John Irving. Please make note of this.

2. As taking an Advil, talking to friends and sipping Pepsi while working things out during a couple of productive weekdays would mean he's not really suffering.

3. Now there's irony that you never saw coming, eh?

4. Cap'n, we've got Melville sighted off the port bow!

4a. Literary reviewers, please. Read Nat Philbrick. Go on the Atkins Diet. Get in touch with your inner Rushdie. Make an appointment for a high colonic. Have sex. Have sex with someone else. Find a decent therapist and work out your issues leftover from high school. Whatever you have to do, do it and get over your obsession with this stupid fricking whale story.

5. Ann Coulter's not the only one exploiting it? Quelle surprise.

6. Squatters being a much hipper term than homeless, I suppose. Or the British have retaken the colonies and no one told me.

7. What the f-- there's NO dialogue in this novel? AT ALL?

8. I can't parody the slippery meat thing. I'm still in shock over the no-dialogue. What, is it like all exposition and setting and weather reports?

9. Aha! Close-captioned for the reading impaired.

10. You obviously never went to a Burning Man, my man.


Okay, so despite the fact that this painfully crafted blurb left me feeling like I'd rather have a colonoscopy minus the sublimaze than read this at the beach, I decided to order the book anyway. I figured I'd write up a snappy blurb of my own to post in comparison. Also, I just had to see a novel with no dialogue.

Guess what? It's not a novel. It's a comic book.

Did you see the words comic book show up anywhere in that blurb? Me, either (and yes, I apologize in advance to everyone who now calls them graphic novels because comic book isn't considered cool anymore.) But it's a comic book, all right. With no dialogue. Which makes it . . . a picture book.

And this is a literary beach "read."

I give up.

*Link brazenly swiped from John Rickards.


  1. Sheeesh. That takes dumbing-down to a whole new depth...

    Hmm... thinking they'll start putting textbooks in graphic novel form next?

  2. LMAO! I'm still trying to figure out what the story is about. I guess at this point I'd need to see the pictures.*ggg*

  3. I'm still trying to get over the word 'ineradicable'. Then there's 'metastasized'. By the time I got to the imagery of being tattooed by bread and butter, I thought I'd fallen into a Monty Python movie. I sure as hell don't see the 'slippery meat-dream of life' as poetic; pretentious, smug and ewwwie yes; 'poetic'? Not even close. This has Squick written all over it. Sounds more like a self-indulgent, self-destructive pity party.

    And I like comic books, thank you.

    Ineradicable? Is there something wrong with 'indelible', or 'permanent'? Jeez, Lou-eeze...

  4. Anonymous2:50 AM

    Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller. That's enough to get you through even the longest vacation.

  5. Don't you know? It HAS to be a graphic novel (not a comic book) with a list price of $19.99....

  6. Anonymous3:14 AM

    Tatooed with his own bread and butter? Wouldn't ink and a needle do the trick?

  7. To be honest at 352 pages it's a graphic novel, not a comic.

    And while it doesn't actually say that it's not a prose novel, it does list the publisher - Vertigo - which if you know who they are tells you that.

    Be a bloody sight easier if they *did* say, of course. And it sounds a daft idea for a book. And an even dafter blurb. Bread and butter my arse.

  8. I think you'd have more fun reading Ranma 1/2 at the beach! I am looking forward to the official Melville-free PBW blurb for this for comparison, though.

  9. Anonymous8:33 AM

    I'll look forward to your review because the Village Voice review makes me think I'd rather wax my bikini line without drinking wine than read this book.

  10. I recently read a novel with no dialogue which worked.

    What I thought funny was that the lack of dialogue kicked that novel into the Literature section and the critics got all mushy over it. If the author had used dialugue, it would just have been another historical fiction book. :)

  11. The name of the author Rick Veitch and the publisher Vertigo do give the game away to those in the know. But it would still have been fair, if Village Voice had just mentioned that it was a comic book/graphic novel/whatever you want to call it.

  12. What's funnier is that the book below it "The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril" qualifies as a beach book. (The creators of Doc Savage and The Shadow, with the help of L. Ron Hubbard, run into pulp-like doings in the 1930s). I enjoyed the hell out of it.


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