Friday, April 30, 2010

No more Ms Nice Guy


One of my joky nicknames for myself is "Pollyanna" - because I always try to think the best. This aspect of my personality has taken a few hits in recent years as I have been discovering that the world is a very evil place indeed, full of liars, hypocrites, cheats and thieves. But the Pollyanna me refuses to completely give up the desire to be good and see good in everyone and everything, based on my influential humanist upbringing, which drummed home to me ideas such as that everyone deserves a fair hearing, and we're all human, and that people are naturally good, and if we all just sat down and talked together harmoniously and respectfully, justice and peace would flourish.

Yeah right. Dad never had to deal with The Academy, so he died with his illusions intact.

My Dad seemed to believe in a Utopia on earth and never stopped living as though he was already in it. He was good to everyone, and he liked everyone (with a few notable exceptions - he and Maurice Duggan - drinking mates at the same tavern, mixing in the same crowd - apparently despised each other... I think Maurice was naturally suspicious of someone who seemed so damn good on the surface, and who everyone else seemed to adore, and just refused to like him on principle, and Dad, who probably wasn't used to being disliked, couldn't help thinking there was something very wrong with the surly Maurice...)

Dad even learned that language Esperanto - and taught it to me as a child. Add this education to my natural personality, with its overriding sense of optimism and a desire to like and be liked (as an astrologer might observe on my natal chart with its strong Leonine and Libran influences) and you don't come up with an ideal book reviewer. I'm hardly going to want to say the hard things. especially in a small country. Fortunately I'm not a "real" book reviewer, just a part-time recreational blogger, so with very few exceptions, if I don't like a book for some reason, I won't bother being negative about it, instead I'll mostly only tell any reader that might happen by, about some of the the good books I've read - and there are plenty of them!

It does make me seem like a Pollyanna though doesn't it, that I bang on about this fine poet and that wonderful memoir, and another stunning non-fiction title. I really do mean it.

It's all true. Sometimes there are good books too, that I have one or other issue with, and I'll be honest about that within the context that this is merely my own opinion of course.

What I don't often talk about is the garbage, but today I have an absolute lemon for you.

Making It by Patrick Evans, Hodder & Stoughton Auckland 1989. "Stiffback" and that's appropriate because the main character appears to have a lot of stiffies. You might even call him a prick.

It is useful to consider a truly gruesomely appalling novel occasionally, because it makes us appreciate so much more those novels that are well written, carefully plotted, with authentic characters.

This author is an ex-school teacher who strayed into academia and also apparently has aspirations to being as great a literary star as the authors he belittles with notoriously mean-spirited criticisms. Not likely if this book is any example of his attempt to rise to their level. The back cover blurb says the novel is "Provocative, unrepentantly masculinist and dealing with characters and settings that are uncomfortably familiar, MAKING IT s comic writing at its darkest and most entertaining when it comes close to giving offence."

Offensive "masculinism" being so hilarious, of course!

I can't find any review of this book anywhere online which isn't surprising. It doesn't appear to be on any New Zealand literature reading lists for schools or universities. I expect there were some semi-polite print "notices" at the time, and perhaps an acknowledgement in an academic journal by some colleague driven into that civility by obscure mutual professional obligation coupled with an obsessively completist attitude to reviewing local fiction. Basically though, Making It is one of that cosy number of fiction titles published that deserves to sink like a stone. I found this book in a bargain bin at the university bookshop where the author is based.

Making It is currently on TRADEME at $3 for an initial bid - but there hasn't been one - auction closing in one hour.

As with many a bad book or film, this novel is occasionally unintentionally funny. Get it if you want a laugh from reading lines like this:

...to his left, Joy called his name. His scrotum
prickled.

I'm over here! his penis called.

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