Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Zinsky the Obscure

Read 5/27/14 - 6/5/14
2 Stars - Recommended Lightly / for those who enjoy reading books where all they want to do is punch the protagonist in the face
Pages: 358
Publisher: Fomite Press
Released: 2013

*looks around at all of the other reviews of this book*
*scratches head, looking at her copy of the book*
*wonders if maybe, by some freak screw-up, she ended up with a different version from everyone else*

A letter to Ariel Zinsky, from an annoyed and unsympathetic reader:

Dear Ariel,

Life is hard. Some lives, well, they are harder than others. But we all have our shit to get through. I know you think you had it bad. Worse than most. And I know you think that this gives you the right to be a selfish, spoiled, ignorant asshole to just about every person you meet. But guess what? It doesn't. God, how I wish you'd get over yourself.

So you were born ugly. Boo hoo. You know who else is born ugly? A huge portion of the world's population. Ugly doesn't define you. YOU define you. Your actions define you. Using ugly as a crutch is a bitch-ass thing to do.

So your daddy beat you a bit when you were a kid. How many people now-a-days come from an abusive household? That doesn't make you special. That makes you normal. If our daddies didn't knock us around, they were calling us names and making us feel like worthless little shits, or worse, completely ignoring us. Big whoop. It's a hard knock life, and some of us get to live it.

And so what that you went bald at a crazily early age. Stress and genetics can be a badass motherfucker sometimes. Some of us go gray young. Some of us develop eczema. Or asthma. Or rheumatoid arthritis. But you learn to deal.

Look, you might not be aware of this, but you're not the only one who's considered suicide at a young age. Or still been a virgin in their early twenties. Shocking, I know. And none of this gives you the right to carry around a Jerk Card, whipping it out any damn time you feel like.

After viewing the world through such dark tinted glasses all your life, and because you didn't develop social skills the way the other kids did, I get that you had no idea other people suffered like you did. I get that you thought it was you against the world. And I feel sorry for you in way. I really do.

Your mom sure loved you, though, didn't she? She was always there for you - a shoulder to sob on, an ear to confess to, always with a reassuring pat on the back or squeeze on the neck. She never doubted you, or blamed you, and she always forgave you. She turned you into such a mama's boy that at times, Ari, I have to be honest, I got a little creeped out by just how affectionate you two could be with each other. She was the woman for all the other women to beat (when there were other woman, which I know, I knoooow, were incredibly few and far between).

And I also have to admit, I'm happy you were able to find true love in sports.  Losing yourself in football stats and following the careers of the players that caught your eye, taking your love and knowledge of the sport from a giddy passion to a money making business through your draft Guides and online blogging... that was really something! And it made me stop and take a look at all the bookish and bloggish things I do, and have been doing.. you gave me pause to consider what I could be doing more or differently to make THIS my career. But I digress.

How about those basketball buddies of yours, the ones who were able to put up with your whiny, woe-is-me bullshit, they were worth their weight in gold, weren't they? Thank God for them, yeah? They stood by you and broke you out of your shell. They gave you a confidence boost. They rooted for you when no one else even knew who you were.

But damn, Ari, I mean, c'mon. Your low self esteem is such a drag. Carrying that childhood baggage around with you into your mid and late twenties. Still dragging it along behind you in your thirties. The women you could have really had something with, made a real life with... I just don't get the decisions you made. Those decisions were, every single one of them, completely selfish. Every time you found yourself alone and sobbing (sobbing!!!) and confused, I pitied you for a moment because you truly did not see how you brought it all upon yourself.

The success you found in the Guide, you let it get to you. You gave it priority number one over anything else, anyONE else. And you allowed the confidence you drew from it poison your relationships. Your poor girlfriend Diana had to work to get out from under its shadow. You used your past and its resulting effect on your self esteem as an excuse to lie, and withhold information from her. And when you finally confessed, you used your past as a reason for her to forgive you. You turned your back on Sandy without a moment's hesistation, after trying to manipulate her in such horrid, horrible ways.

Here's a little secret: maturity doesn't come automatically with age, Ari. Constantly reminding me (and yourself) that you're 25 or 28 or 30 doesn't mean a fucking thing. I've known "men" who are in their late 30's and 40's, and yes, even 50's who are just as immature and selfish and self serving as teenage boys. Age doesn't mean shit. It's only a number. And it's still no excuse to be a douchebag.

Had I known you in real life.. had you ever tried to pull any of your bullshit around me, I swear I would have punched you in the face. Even with these 358 pages between us, I found myself wishing there was a way I could reach down through the words in those pages, reach right straight through into the story, my fingers seeking the soft flesh of your neck so that I could wrap them around it and squeeze with all my might.

I would wish you the best with the rest of your life but I have a feeling that, even with that feel-good final paragraph, that moment of recognizing where you've come from and of maybe finally seeing where you are, I have a feeling that no matter what I wish, you will still be doing douchebaggy things and pulling out that Jerk Card as you smile for forgiveness, reminding everyone of your shitty ass childhood.


  1. Whew! That is one angry review! That's okay, though. I think if a person is going to invest 358 pages of their reading life, she wants to go in informed. While it can be really very hard to make a character that readers have a strong reaction to, it's 10x harder to make readers want to keep reading that book. How is it possible to hate Humbert Humbert so much and yet WANT to read about him? Skills, ya'll. Plus Jeremy Irons great reading voice in the audio book.

    1. Angry? A bit bitter maybe. Just because it was such a tough book to get through. So whiny and self absorbed, But I'm also coming at it as a kind of funky, tongue in cheek, overly dramatic 'review as if written as a letter directly to the character' sort of thing. Maybe that doesn't come across especially clear? Oh well, i still had fun writing!

  2. Hi Lori -- Bummer you didn't like my book, but I'm still grateful that you gave it a chance and reviewed it. And thanks again for doing what you do for all of us indie authors!

  3. Ilan, I really gave it a good try. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the writing. I just could not stand the character. It's really one of those things where I think you either love him or hate him, yeah? I appreciate your comment and hey, so far someone left a comment on goodreads saying my review made them want to read it, so there's always that too :)

  4. Absolutely. You know, I think for most of us (indie) authors, we're so overwhelmed with gratitude for every reader who gives our books a chance (let alone every reviewer!) that any and all heartfelt reactions are greatly appreciated!

  5. This review is all kinds of awesome!! It must have felt good to get that out. Tell the character what you really think! ;)

    (this book is still in my TBR list)

    1. Aww thanks Monika. It just felt right, since I was having such an issue with the character himself and not really with the book as a whole. It was kind of cathartic.