The Perfect Day for a Book Review

I finished reading Ray Harvey’s More and More unto the Perfect Day more than a year ago – for the third time. I had intended to write a review of the book immediately following each reading, but couldn’t gather my thoughts into a neat pile. Instead, I was left with crooked, overlapped, often torn conclusions of how the book had affected me. I have taken notes. I have made an outline in order to follow the storyline. I still find myself unable to write a standard type review, so instead, I’ll submit to my visceral reactions…as a human being; not as a writer, critic, or editor.

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First, it pissed me off because it attempted to challenge the beliefs that I have held dear for the entirety of my 38 years. For this, I commend it. A religious man’s faith is tested. The pages where this occurred in real-time are now filled with dry gorges — valleys that were formed by the weight of my tears. Old tears.

Second, the crooked, yet parallel, line it draws with my own life had me looking over my shoulder with the turn of every page. From things as provocative and significant as sourceless anger and spontaneous illness to spooky similarities like Cherokee heritage, acne scars, stretch marks, the names and appearances of family members…I experienced what I would call a one-dimensional, reflective haunting.

Here’s where I stop counting and fall into what flirts with a search for words. This book reached deep within in me. I am a deer that is not yet dead, but being prematurely field-dressed due to her poacher’s anxiety, guilt…something. A hand grabs at my trachea, cuts off the air, and pulls downward, to a place outside my own body. This book has found places within me that have been injured. Some of them have been healed. Others are now bleeding.

I’m not a philosopher, and don’t wish to be. I’m not an intellectual, though I sometimes envy those who are. That’s why it’s so difficult to qualify how and why this book affected me so profoundly. I’m still not sure I understand all the material. Maybe I never will; maybe it’s not intended to be fully understood.

I have found myself wishing I had never read it. Yet, I have read it numerous times. I have attempted to rid my mind of the images it imparts. Yet, I revisit them and curl up into the places they have hollowed out for me. Its lyrical prose is like a song. Its imagery is dark, shapely, and at times, far too real.

Thank you, Mr. Harvey. I don’t know if you intended to do this to me, but it has been done. I doubt I will ever read another book like yours, but if one comes along, the will power to keep my hands off of it will have to be strong. Thank you for demonstrating how good literary fiction distracts the conscious mind while implanting belief systems into the subconscious and unconscious minds. You have reminded me why I love the written word and why I am addicted to its effects – even if those effects are those which I’d rather not endure.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is NOT impressed by predictability, pedestrian prose, shallow characters, and ignorance as an ultimate form of contentedness. If you fit the profile, hold on. There’s no telling how deep this one will take you.

Trust your Readers

As happens every six hours, AM talk radio had begun to depress my mood. There was nothing on FM to sing along with. The silence was too much to bear, considering I’d been alone all day.

A small voice came from the back seat. “Mom, I want to read to you.”

“That would be great! Let’s go.”

A rustling of pages ensued and my 10-year-old daughter started, “The animorphosisms stood before me. Around each one was an extremely disgusting pile of slime.”

“Honey?” I interrupted. “What did the pile of slime look like?”

She thought for a moment and responded, “It was disgusting.”

“Yes, but what color was it? Did it smell? Was it moving? Was it making any sounds?”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t say.” She turned the page forward and back again. “It’s just disgusting…that’s it.”

This reminded me that, in my own writing, I must remember to strive for a “show, don’t tell” process and product. Regardless of the age of the reader, the author must remember that the reader will feel much more satisfied — more fulfilled and willing to keep on reading — if he or she feels a part of the deductions made in every story, every chapter…every paragraph. Don’t tell your readers that something is disgusting. Tell them that the pile of flesh-pink and mold-green, coagulated material moved with sucking waves of nauseating slurp and expelled clouds of stink — stink that could only be duplicated by plunging 3 dozen rotten eggs into a vat of decaying skunk flesh.

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Trust your readers and they’ll trust you. Give them the information they need to draw their own conclusions — and if the information is crafted with heart and plenty of thought, their deductions will match your expectations.

Food for Fiction: Newspaper Funnies

Where do you get your short story and novel ideas? No matter your chosen genre, you might look to authentic life for subject matter…and where better to find real life than in the newspaper? There, you’ll find the best, and most often the worst, of this pack we call humanity. When I have the occasion to generate a short story (the bills aren’t stopping, and therefore neither is my ghostwriting), I like to consult local and national newspapers for help with sparking story ideas.  Today, I stumbled across some funny headlines and couldn’t help searching for some of their twisted cousins. Here are my favorites:

  • One-armed man applauds the kindness of strangers
  • Caskets found as workers demolish mausoleum
  • Alton attorney accidentally sues himself
  • Condom truck tips, spills load
  • Man eats underwear to beat breathalyzer
  • Sewage spill kills fish, but water safe to drink
  • Panda mating fails; veterinarian takes over
  • Marijuana issue sent to joint committee
  • Students cook & serve grandparents
  • Hippo eats dwarf
  • Lost:  African elephant
  • Topeka cemetery clean-up in need of volunteers:  A light lunch to follow provided by Waste Management of Kansas
  • Tight end returns after colon surgery
  • Miracle cure kills fifth patient
  • All you need to know about Obama’s package
  • A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt
  • Hooker named lay person of the year
  • Blind man denied Minn. gun permit
  • Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25

Deeper probing took me to the police blotters:

  • A deputy responds to a report of a vehicle stopping at mail boxes. It was the mailman.
  • Wal-Mart: Police receive a report of a newborn infant found in a trash can. Upon investigation, officers discover it was only a burrito.
  • The Learning Center on Hanson Street reports a man across the way stands at his window for hours watching the center, making parents nervous. Police ID the subject as a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And I have to give proper credit to the classifieds:

  • Human skull, used once only. Not plastic. $200 OBO
  • Full size mattress, Royal Tonic, 20 year warranty. Like new. Slight urine smell. $40
  • Potty chair, solid oak, light brown stain

Quick — grab a pen. By the time your diaphragm stops cramping, you’ll have come up with a storyline involving a Hannibal-Lecter-wanna-be mailman who delivers special-recipe burritos, or a veterinarian who learns to embrace both the yin and the yang. Come on — if you write it, I’ll read it.

Wanted: Fiction Ghostwriter

I’ve been contacted by a few people recently about ghostwriting their novels.  I’d like to take this opportunity to give a loud and collective, “No, thank you,” to anyone who is looking to have this type of work done, and if you read on, you’ll learn why. It has been assumed that I won’t ghostwrite […]

My Heart is a Book

I’ve written more than one book review about Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, so doing that again and adding to the gargantuan web pile of reviews might be redundant, if not ridiculous. So instead, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned about the author. I’ve been to two Zusak speaking engagements, one […]

Nothing to Write with

If I disjoint my vision, bid it stop searching for a glimmer in the blackness or a curvature on which to land, I’ll see. If I can stop my panicked ears from grasping out for some sound, any tumult, no matter how small, I’ll hear. If I take away food, if I allow my mouth to cleave […]

Naked Public Recycling Cures Bone Valley Hauntings

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Ghost writing doesn’t haunt its ghost writer. Once a project is finished, it’s sent off with its new owner and the ghost writer can free his or her spirit from the piece. There are no remnants, no bones left behind. If the customer is satisfied, the work is finished. Often, the ghost writer is bound […]