Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Review: Memoirs of a Violent Sleeper
2 Stars - Not Recommended as an intro to indie lit genre
As most of you are aware, there are countless perks to being a book blogger. We get to meet authors and publishers, get invites to book events and expo's, and are in the unique position of having books pitched to us for review.
When we choose to accept those books, it is done carefully, with consideration of the genre and the anticipation that the book will be a good fit personally and for our blog.
It's never easy to write a review that is less than glowing, and even more difficult to do so when you have had contact with the author. Just knowing they will be reading this would be enough to make a blogger hesitate.
(Stop.... back away from the computer... slowly... slowly...)
(Maybe if I remove the book from my goodreads "currently reading" shelf, they'll never know I started it...)
(Maybe they'll forget they sent it to me, and won't remember to follow up on its status...)
This book, Memoirs of a Violent Sleeper, was pitched to me - and accepted - before I had gotten to know the author, so I feel that the book deserves a review, and hope that its author can find some constructive feedback to take back with him as he works on upcoming projects. Matt is a cool dude, and has an incredibly creative mind. He cranks out short stories like nobody's business. You may have seen the one we posted last month for our Tell Me a Story Feature? I owe him my honesty... and heck, doesn't everyone...?
Memoirs premise is what caught my attention, initially. It's about a guy who was diagnosed with a violent sleep disorder at a young age and how, as the years pass, he has allowed this disorder to define him as a person - withholding love from his family, friends, and much to his dismay, any women he may become romantically attached to out of fear of the illness. As you can imagine, there is much emotional turmoil, which manifests itself through drug and alcohol use and an unhealthy hunger for prostitutes.
The main character, Steven, is really hung up on himself - in a "I have this horrible affliction, no one understands me, woe-is-me" kind of way - and has this "fuck you" attitude about everything, until he falls head over heels for the gothy coffee girl that works with him.
And the story itself was interesting. It has a tremendous amount of stuff going for it. Unfortunately, the writing and poor editing made it difficult to remain invested in it as a reader. Keep in mind, I do not usually let things like misplaced commas ruin a good read for me. God knows I need all the help I can get with my own grammar. But in this case, the entire book was plagued with odd phrasing and use of tense, along with willy-nilly comma placement.
Ex: Holding my, now empty, mug, asking, begging to be replenished, I look back at her.
Matt also has this incredibly strange habit of narrating every little move and step his characters make. I say "strange" because it puts the author in a tough spot throughout the entire novel. What if the character takes the top off of the jar? You now need to make sure you write in the fact that he replaced the top, or else the reader will think he forgot, or that he's a radical kind of guy who opens jars all day long and leaves the lids off..... Does he not have faith in our ability to realize that in order to pour the drink, he had to remove the top and then replace it? Or in the case of the example below, does he question our ability to imagine that, in order to leave the parked car, the character must perform each one of these things in this exact order for the parking to be considered complete?
Ex: I Park, grab my phone, pull the keys, get out clicking the lock button on the door, shut the door, and run up the stairs, skipping several steps on the way up (pg.159)
The book was screaming for an editor from start to finish. And since this is the first book I've read from Creative House Press, I cannot say whether this is typical of their publishing company or not. But I have read other works by Matt, and I had to fight the urge to pick up a pencil and start rewriting sections of the novel as I went along. The magic is in there, but it's hidden under things that could easily be set aside or explained differently.
In the end, I think that this book suffered mostly due to lack of editing. I see it more as a rough first draft... something that was feverishly written and in need of a second, more thorough look before being published. There is something of a diamond in the rough here. More rough right now, less of a diamond, but still....
Matt has included two chapter excerpts on his website, which I would encourage you read. It will give you a good feel for his style of writing. You may decide that I am out of my mind, and that I am needlessly tearing apart a perfectly good book. Which, in all honesty, could be true. If the goodreads reviews are anything to go by, I am clearly in the minority.
Though, I would caution you against reading this novel if it's your first experience with an independently published novel, as its quality is not representative of most indie published works of literary fiction.