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Total Quality Reading

Stories are our business ™

What I liked. The Andy-holding court scene, it made me laugh because I have an image of Andy Warhol, a stock footage remembrance of his mannerisms and voice, so when he replies to the question “Are you evil?” it’s quite funny because you can really see him saying, in that disinterested, vapid way, “Oh I suppose I might be…”

More of what I like … the attempt to be experimental and, as they say in the fight game, let your hands go and let it all hang out, like a fighter who’s still got some training to do before becoming a true contender unafraid to stand and bang.  So…

Rorchalk said knock you out! Ima gonna knock you out!

Pugilistic coup de grace asides aside, since the cap's made it this far on TQR’s twisted road, it’s owed the full deluxe shore dinner.

BOY, RECLINING is squarely in the category of what I’ve come to call a CHARLIE THE TUNA VENTURE. With the ad copy of the ancient television commercial firmly in mind. In other words, it’s more concerned with good taste than actually tasting good. The language strives for the bella lingua before it’s established mise-en-scene. Instead of that certain je ne sais quois it's more, WTF?

The opening line:

Georgette Devismes saw the boy through the window, and time stopped.

OK. I am ready for some magic time-stopping hijinx with the presence of mind to realize the time stopping could also be expressive of the fact Georgette saw something that knocked her socks off. But my radar is pinged by the inclusion of the weird and how- the-hell-do-you-pronounce-it-anyway last name.  It detracts from the narrative flow and has me re-reading the Devismes multiple times trying to figure out how it’s said. But OK. 

 This also threw me:

 The young woman to whom Georgette was speaking – her hair was long and stringy, and she was wearing a flowered skirt and vest that identified her, Georgette supposed, as one of those “hippies” the American press had been talking about – walked over to the young man and took the jar out of his hands.

Head hopping in the m-dash is against the law and gets you a stiff fine round these parts. I had to go back over this convolute several times to distill it. I am not a grammarian who can point to the subject, verb, predicate and diagram a sentence, so please bear with me if I screw this up, but there is some serious passive voice, subject-predicate type voodoo going on here that cast a spell all down in this sentence so that it’s not at all clear who is walking over to the young man to take the jar from his hands. The “Georgette supposed” in the confines of the m-dashes makes it seem we’re in her head and so fools us into thinking it is her at first, but the succeeding dialogue makes it clear that it’s Hilda instead. Or does it? Anyhow. So, back track, re-read  and be amazed to get that it’s actually “the young woman to whom Georgette was speaking” before the m-dash that took the jar out of Mark’s hands. Ohhh. Just not worth the confusion this stylized sentence of confusing whatever it’s properly called in grammar circles. I just know it ain’t right! Sorry. I wish I could explain it better. But I know convoluted writing when I see it and, brother, that is convoluted.

What I get from the opening scene: Georgette Devismes is a presumptuous vapidness that seriously thinks Mark is a mark that is for sale. And, well, I guess he is just some kind of mindless golem there for Hilda the store owner and Georgette’s amusement because he does get sold, with no say so in the matter, it seems, in the transaction. The perfect model, mindless and pliable. But, he’s still human so I really don’t get the instant falling in love with Georgette, who treats him like a dog.

The conjuring of Boy to replace the golem mark. This major act of sorcery is tossed off like it’s nothing, as simple as, well... snapping your fingers. Doesn’t square with Newton’s 3rd law of physics, wherein every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Albeit it is magic, but the law of universal consequences still applies. For instance, In my favorite movie Excalibur (1981) Merlin was put out of commission 9 moons just by changing Uther Pendragon’s appearance to the Duke of Cornwall so he could sneak into the castle and schtup Cornwall’s wife, Igraine (to beget Arthur no less, which is why Merlin agreed to undertake the taxing transaction in the first place). That was just a night’s change of appearance and it nearly killed Merlin. What kind of hangover must be endured after you’ve created a fully functioning human being from an ink form on canvas? Without the law of consequence, what is stopping someone with this God-like power from becoming God-like in their existence? In other words, taking over the world? But Hilda, this powerful enchantress who can create life from canvas is the shop owner of some back alley hole in the wall? Doesn't square. She tosses this Boy birthing off on a whim, with some chanting and holly, as a way of getting her mark back? It just doesn’t make sense. It minimizes to pure pettiness what needs to be a major point of consequence in the venture. And that’s probably my main problem with this piece as a whole, the characters are cardboard cutouts. Georgette is PAINTER. Though nothing in the venture gives me a window or even a brief entre into the painter’s world, or nothing that I can recall. Mark is the initial object of obsession, the downstyle boy, who is traded like a bottle of peppercorns and exudes as much personality, but then he falls in love with Georgette? Someone who has yet to show even basic emotion is suddenly slain by the arrow of love? 'A' does not follow 'B' in this equation.

 Then there is Boy, with a capital B. Boogie woogie bugle notwithstanding. Two boys and a Paintress and a Witch between them. If there is some larger implication and/or meaning: metaphorical, spiritual, mundane … I’m just not getting it or having any kind of energy return that would qualify as the requisite catharsis of something that could be called a Capital Gain. If the venture is alive on some esoteric levels, it’s not working on the elbow-thrashing level that is more important to its success, namely the ability to entertain. 

The subsequent failed suicide attempt, too coincidentally and conveniently foiled; Georgette's treatise on Beauty (which went right through me); and the accidental murder of downstyle boy are all striving for some grandiose themes but I don't feel any of them. The presentation is hollow because the narrative has skipped the hard labor of building a foundation upon which to hang all the gaudy decoration it's striving to employ.

How else to explain it? I get the sense the VC is aiming for the stars, to rock the gates of heaven without first filling the vessels he's creating (ie his [our] characters) with the spark of life. Jerking them around like puppets in a morality play that makes no sense because their actions are being employed to illustrate some higher purpose that's nothing to do with the everyday. The method is backward trying to  cram grandiose universal themes down the throat of characters only in service to those themes instead of creating the characters that breathe freely and, by their words and actions lead the reader to notice something universal in themselves. Dunno. Just trying to quantify the unquantifiable if that is even a word? Dunno. I am at a loss here on trying to be helpful while at the same time saying, "No." 

Props to the attempt at some unique language and the unusual putting together of words. The stylized nature of these CHARLIE THE TUNA good taste kinda ventures can fool a lot of people (capital managers included) but, Sorry Charlie, without the spark of life that keeps the reader wondering 'what's next?', there's really no accounting.