MONSTROUS

Tommy Walker

I am Annoyed by my Readers

To which you are supposed to respond, ‘What a breath of fresh air!’ Because I really do want more readers and more chances to be annoyed. I loved when Anne Rice gave her readers what-for amidst the Amazon reviews for Blood Canticle (her post has since been deleted though you can still get a sense of its contents from subsequent reviews), and when Thomas Harris crapped all over his Clarice Starling heroine in Hannibal, likewise soiling his faithful. There is no doubt your ilk deserves it, and none whatsoever either that you’ve historically gotten off too easy, for all the mousy authors who wouldn’t dare speak up at the risk of alienating their base.

It doesn’t matter if you loved Monstrous or not– you will always find a way to annoy me. My ‘mindfuck’ reviewer loved my book like you wouldn’t believe; he was rolling on the floor laughing his ass off seemingly all the way through, which was great except for one thing–

MY LIFE’S NOT A GODDAM COMEDY!

In that case and that case only, my feeling of annoyance dissipated to nothing over time, and I want to thank Andy Cheek for showing me that it really is possible to interpret my book that way.  I have since adopted a comedic voice when re-reading Monstrous aloud, and frankly love the feeling of revisiting my words from a place where the hurt is gone.

As for the rest of you, specifically you reviewers on Amazon, I am sick of staring at those stagnant critiques sitting there year after year without a proper rebuttal.

AN UNPOLISHED BUT INTERESTING COMING-OF-AGE TALE

A period of insomnia and a head cold allowed me to read this book over a two day period, and I just finished a few minutes ago.

That lead is the one sentence Grover didn’t copy and paste from her BookCrossing review to Amazon.  My heart sank when I read it, as a portent of things to come.  She was tired and wired in a bad head space when I needed her fully engaged, and two days for an occasionally dense and always subtle, 500ish page book suggested that she reads for speed, and that comprehension was low on her list of priorities.  She launched into her Monstrous review without any time soaking it in.

It is incredibly difficult to comment upon (and certainly to critique) someone’s autobiography….especially someone kind enough to share his words with us ravenous BookCrossers. However, my brief correspondence with MonstrousWalker leads me to believe that he is looking for honest opinions, so here goes….

I asked for it…and I got it.  Of course, it is incredibly awkward as a self-published author to have to additionally wear the hats of publicist and distributor, and a number of readers have imagined themselves to be reading rejected first drafts, taking on the tones of walking-on-eggs Creative Writing Workshop supporters as they fish for the reasons my novice manuscript must have been rejected instead of opening themselves up to the possibility they were in for the ride of their life.  The mindset is ruinous to a reader’s potential enjoyment even if they start to catch on that they’re reading a wonderful book, due to the time lost at the table setting stage chasing typos that aren’t there and what have you.

The book is MonstrousWalker’s version of the book that each voracious reader thinks he/she has in him/her, but MonstrousWalker has taken the brave step of actually completing it, so kudos.

Those who can, write.  Those who can’t, read.  I was voracious in early childhood when I had the subversive Dr. Seuss to hang out with, but was not that much of a reader by the time I wrote Monstrous, because of the lack of worthy reading in alignment with my interests.  The book I wanted to read didn’t exist, so I had to write it myself.

Yes, it was kind of brave, to attack that glass ceiling as a perp in a literary sea of victims, when I was not in prison and hadn’t bothered studying statutes of limitations, but could you be any more condescending?  ‘Brave’ to prostrate my trembling soul  before your mentoring benevolence?  Your profile says you are older than the protagonist, but quite a bit younger than the author.

That said, as a diary of a man’s life, it is amazing.

Ha– I got ya!  Something for my Monstrous QuotablesAs a diary of a man’s life, it is amazing.

As a book to be read and enjoyed by others it is sorely in need of a good editor. The book was simply too long and repetitive in numerous spots. It was FILLED with grammatical errors (a pet peeve of mine, and I’ll admit that there are others who are not bothered by this at all)

This one speaks to the headline about my tale being ‘unpolished’, when it is hard to imagine an author applying more loving devotion to the buffing and polishing of his tale than my obsessive self applied.  I had a self-perception to live up to, that of being arguably the best writer who ever lived,  and I was not going to let my words see the light if I thought my book couldn’t be argued for as the best book ever written.

Monstrous is not an exhaustive laundry list.  I followed a woman here, and I followed a woman there, and I followed a woman everywhere, yes.  But it’s the here, there and everywhere that moves the story along.  Please let us not fixate on the fact I kept following women.  I never told an anecdote that didn’t introduce an important new if subtle point; you just need some radar for subtlety.

I might have missed that day of school when they taught how to use prepositions, but in the main I doubt this is what you’re referring to.  No grammatical usage is in error if I made the choice on purpose, and indeed I made many choices in favor of spoken English as it’s heard in my neck of the woods over how it’s traditionally written.  Me and Rhodes scholar Bill Clinton  are fond of “me and him”, just as a frinstance.

– while I’ll agree with the sum of MW’s teacher’s who apparently told him he was a good writer, they might well have encouraged him to spend a bit more time on the mechanics of English usage. The substance is there, however, and MW can be justly proud of the result.

I was told about the quality of my writing now and then, and have ascribed to these moments very little significance.  More often it was a stolen look that passed from teacher to ‘Tommy’, conveying an astonishment that they should encounter a student of my caliber in their lifetime.  Where you might be confused, and goodness knows I have been at fault in propagating the myth, is in the fact my book wasn’t quite ‘written’.  It was tape recorded and transcribed first, as a means of quickly getting my story down in however unwieldy a form so I could see the end from the beginning.  The irony is that the bulk of my work was in forever whittling down, whittling down, and shuffling text around to their ideal locations.  I spouted my mouth for 120 hours, mindlessly transcribed, then hunkered to the task of editing.

As to the main “character”, I found him “monstrous” only in the banality of his perceived problems. The book read as if it should have been subtitled, “Teen Angst, Plus One”.

We have got to get past the world of fiction’s– and the fictionalized real world’s– perception of serial killers.  Abnormal normality is in fact part of the profile.  A person with no identity is free to become a composite of everyone in the world.

So you hate yourself, you hate your parents,

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!  A little less projection, please!  I hated situations, never members of my own family.

you feel you don’t fit in, you can’t get girls, you feel sexually unfulfilled, and you go through a bad teen-age break-up? That is the story of nearly EVERY adolescent, and one that doesn’t require 600 pages of exploration.

I sold myself as normal, and you bought it.  That’s what I’ve been doing, and what you all have been doing, my entire life.  That was half the battle.

I assume the “serial killer” hook was intended as nothing more than a come-on to catch potential readers. I saw nothing in our narrator that would have ever [led] me to believe that he was capable of any but trivial crimes – a kid stealing shoes off the street does not a serial killer make.

The only thing that makes a serial killer is killing people serially.  And the only claim my title makes is that I was not a serial killer.  “There but for the grace of God go I” is a principle that has been operating just fine without me since time immemorial, though I gave its illumination a whirl through every word I wrote.  Get yourself a clue.

I was also a bit put off by the narrator’s repeated references to his “homelessness”. He may have WANTED to feel rootless, but to describe himself [as] “homeless” when he went hungry for about 48 hours and was never more than a phone call away from his loving parents is rather an insult to those who do not enjoy the sorts of options that the narrator [had].

Is it really fruitful to address specific points once a reader has exposed herself as a complete idiot?  Technically, living without a home is the only prerequisite to calling oneself homeless, though I once was homeless also as a state of mind even when I did have a roof, beyond any idealization I might have entertained over the freedom of having nothing left to lose.  I never claimed my situations of actual homelessness to be on equal footing with long-term homeless folks, and in fact compassionate sentiments toward those not homeless by choice are sprinkled throughout the book.  Heaven knows how you managed to miss every last one of them.

But you’ll notice I kept reading. With the criticism I’ve noted above, I found myself wondering why I didn’t just quit the book. In the end, I had a real desire to see what happened to this wayward boy (for he remained a boy throughout this book), and MW’s writing was good enough to keep me hooked.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

You’re welcome (sigh).  And thank you for the inflated four stars out of five.  I needed that extra star for the one our next reviewer screwed me out of.

Stay tuned.

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April 2, 2012 - Posted by | Reviews | , , , ,

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