Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: Cartilage and Skin

Read 12/16/14 - 12/30/14
2 Stars - Tread Lightly / A slow and strange book that leaves you wishing you you could face-punch the narrator
Pages: 328
Publisher: Starcherone Books 
Released: 2013

I've read my fair share of books that featured narrators who were incredibly immense jerks. Disgrace featured a world class jerk. Saturday featured a hoity-toity jerk. Both of these books grated on my nerves, and the leading jerkyhead jerks kept pissing me off, and yet... against my better judgement, being the optimistic reader that I am, I continued to read, hoping for some kind of final-hour-redemption, only to end up totally aggravated and stewing over the hours I had wasted on them.

You can go ahead and add Michael James Rizza's Cartilage and Skin to that list. This book failed to grab me from the get-go. The pace was excruciatingly slow and the main dude - Dr. Parker - was a total sleazebag. The book starts out with our Parker picking up the mail for a reclusive female neighbor. Except, instead of giving her all of it, he begins keeping the packages of photos that an apparent "admirer" sends her. And then he begins fantasizing about her. And when the lust becomes almost too much to bear, he beings to stalk and harass her at her front door.  Turns out she's this grotesquely large woman who used to be into this fetishist stuff and she knows he's been withholding those packages. Hell, she tells him that the dude whose been sending her the packages knows he's been keeping them, too.

So now he's all paranoid that this dude gonna come after him. Meanwhile, he's been humoring this sick little homeless kid - paying him to run errands for him so he doesn't have to leave the house - until the kid gets so sick that Parker has no choice but to call an ambulance, which suddenly brings this shitstorm of an investigation down around him. Apparently the boy's got a nasty history and had recently been abused pretty badly and Parker's the first one they're looking at. When Parker is called in and fails to offer the information the case worker and her investigators are looking for, his privacy is threatened.

In the midst of all this shit - the anxiety of the investigation and the paranoia of the photo fetish dude secretly stalking him - Parker meets Vanessa, who runs a vintage clothing store, and inadvertently but also kinda knowingly, pulls her naive ass into all of this shit too.

Parker plays like he's this anti-social, innocent victim of his circumstances but you get the feeling the whole way through that this guy is totally playing you. He's not an honest narrator and he's making everything worse by hanging around and instigating the situation.

It's not often I want to face-punch a protagonist. But the combination of Parker's sheer cluelessness, his ridiculous hyper-vigilance, disgustingly low self esteem, and the ease with which he lies and shrugs off the seriousness of his situation made me want to take him by the shoulders and shake him fucking silly. 

I've read some of the reviews on this book and had a good laugh at the ones that claim it's a creepy read. The only thing that I found creepy about it was our narrator, a Grade A creeper if ever there was one. The few relationships he had were odd and malformed. The only person he ever really seemed to give a shit about was himself. And then there were these horrid moments within the book where Parker would divert from the actual novel and philosophize for page after page about shit I could care less about. Some of these digressions were borderline torturous. At a minimum, they were just plain ole boring.

If I could go back in time, to December 16th, the day I started this book, I'd tell myself not to bother. I'd explain to myself that if I picked it up and read it, I wouldn't feel right putting it down, and that when I got to the final three pages or so of the novel, two entire weeks later, I'd only end up pissed off and frustrated. So frustrated, in fact, that I would go on to immediately review the book, still feeling the heat and hatred those final few pages created in me... 

1 comment:

  1. Are we talking creepy like Humbert Humbert creepy, or something totally different? The plot sounds interesting (until you get to the vintage clothing lady), but I do know that most Starcherone books are highly challenging for a variety of reasons (one of which may be editor aesthetics).