Friday, June 20, 2014
Book Review: The Fun We've Had
3 Stars - Recommended to readers who prefer allegorical, non linear, reflective literature
Publisher: Lazy Fascist Press
Released: May 2014
Lazy Fascist, my friend, I love you, but sometimes your choice of literature confuses me. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this book. But. I mean. Well, there's something a little not-quite-you about it. It's definitely less bizarre than your usual fare and far more out-of-body than I'm used to from you. If that makes sense. To be honest, though, I do find it interesting that Michael J Seidlinger's writing shares similarities to the likes of Blake Butler and JA Tyler, both of whom you've published in the past. So maybe, now that I think about it, this type of book is more common to your catalog than I give you credit for? And I've just managed to read around it this whole time? Huh. Looks like I just talked myself into a big fat circle right there. Uhm. Ok. Moving on...
So I crack open The Fun We've Had - or, uhm, rather, I slide the pages from right to left on my smartphone - and begin to read about a 'he and she' who're paddling around the great wide ocean in a coffin. They are in love, were in love, will be in love once more, bicker and ignore one another, borrow one another's bodies, and move through the endless waters in a numbing humdrum of internal contemplation. They are each other's protector and rejector, judge and jury. They cannot escape one another, nor do they seem to want to. They harbor heavy guilt and concern for one another. Each exudes forgiveness while refusing to forget, and this inability to let go is what we begin to realize has been keeping them both afloat.
Seidlinger breaks the book out into chapters that resemble the various stages of grief - Anger, Fear, Acceptance, etc. The 'him' and the 'her' take turns sharing their viewpoints through that chapter's specific filter, divulging their side of the relationship as they "row", intimating their idea of where they are and why they are there, and how they might get themselves out of their strange and worrisome predicament. As they accuse (whether outwardly or inwardly) the coffin takes on water and they must work together to avoid it slipping beneath the waves. When the rain that falls upon them turns acidic, one scurries to protect the other.
At one point in the book, they move into each other's bodies and see themselves through the other's eyes - how they've let themselves go, how they've aged ungracefully - and little by little, as they acknowledge and accept portions of the other, they give the bits of their bodies back. At another point, the woman's mother floats up to their coffin out of nowhere and moves away again. All the while, they ask themselves and each other "are we having fun?"
Throughout the rotating chapters, we begin to piece together a moment, or series of moments, that took place in the couple's past, the catalyst that most likely influenced their current situation. And I'm afraid if I go any further I may just ruin the book for you - assuming I am spot-on with my assumption of what has been taking place throughout the entire book and am not completely off base or reading into something that is not there.
On the surface, The Fun We've Had appears to be a quick read but you'll soon discover how deceiving it is. Yes, at face value, it's a dissection of relationships. It's a call to arms for love and the fear of losing love, a look at the lengths we go to in order to never let go, to fight the final goodbye, and everyone who reads it is guaranteed to find themselves reflected in some way, some shape, some form, within its words.
But if you're like me, you'll find yourself stopping more and more often between character rotations to digest what has just been thrown at you. Like the sting of cold water splashed unexpectedly at your face, Seidlinger excels at tucking his meanings between the lines, lulling you to sleep with his prose, only to jolt you awake again with a statement or confession that causes you to look back at what you've just read through newer, more aware eyes.
This book is certainly not for everyone. Its style and structure will be an immediate turn off for those who prefer the more standard and linear forms of story telling. If you get a thrill out of reading books that pull you out of your comfort zone, that leave you questioning what exactly is taking place, then go on and grab this one. I'd be curious to see if you came to the same conclusion I did.