Thursday, December 15, 2016
Book Review: Firework
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended / The second half is wowsers
Publisher: Tyrant Books
Yeah, I know. I took my sweet old time with this one. At first, I had no idea if I was even going to stick with it. It was slow. The writing was jarring. I think the book was like "fuck you, don't like me. I don't want you to like me".
I kinda sorta dug it while I was reading it but if I put it down, watch out, whole days went by before I felt the pull to pick it back up.
But then somewhere in the middle there, something changed. The novel started getting some weight to it and before I realized it, I had chewed through a good one-hundred pages of it in a single sitting. I almost wanted to finish the book right then and there but I was too tired to turn another page.
About midway through, the loosey goosey protagonist was suddenly showing some real personality and holy hell is he fucked up, right?
I mean, ok, Jelonnek was fucked up from the start. When we first meet him, he's being picked up by the cops and skirts being bullied in a jail cell for a few days. We don't know much about him and honestly, we can't be bothered to care because he doesn't seem to care either. He also doesn't seem to be good at anything. No. Wait. That's not entirely true. Jelonnek's sort of a natural at being a half-ass, at doing just enough to get by. At work and at life. You might not realize it, but doing 'just enough' to get by takes some skill. Though I imagine it's got to be quite tiresome after awhile. But Jelonnek's no quitter. No sirree. When he decides that skating by is how he wants to live, there's probably few people out there who can do it better.
All good things come to an end, though. And when Jelonnek finds himself on a cigarette run with his sister's boyfriend George, things get nasty. Fast. Jelonnek, who is at his most comfortable when embracing his slackerhood, breaks habit by getting involved with Littlebit, a prostitute George picks up and proceeds to beat the shit out of, and her daughter Miss D. Without much prompting, Jelonnek slides into the role of the reluctant hero and agrees to chauffeur the ladies across the country to meet up with Littlebit's elusive cousin.
Marten's style of writing is a character in and of itself. One reviewer discusses "the detached nature of the narration, which is not in first person" though it reads as though it is. His close third person preference and bleak prose is disorientating at first but ultimately sucks you in. Instead of turning away from Jelonnek's antics in disgust, we are drawn in further by him. And catch ourselves pitying him, caring for him, even though, damn it, we know we really really shouldn't. Maybe it's because we can see bits and pieces of ourselves in Jelonnek? Or maybe it's because we can't help but watch a trainwreck? Whatever it is, it keeps us glued to the page, right up to Jelonnek's grand finale.
And what a finale it is.