Saturday, April 20, 2013
Review:Dark Chatter by Andrew Branch
(Within the Dark Chatter this is a memorable novel)
There was a lot to like about this novel.
It seems to be so much and yet it falls so short of what it could be.
Like expecting french-fries and getting fried potatoes.
The book takes off with a bang that's more of a false tap in that it entails the story of how our hero or anti-hero of the story is conceived. Which seems to be by some excess hand-waving rivaled only by the conception of Garp in John Irving's The World According to Garp.
Abe-IV- the father of whatever offspring may come; appears to be in no condition to father a child normally and will soon die. Abe's mother wishes a child heir and his-nurse-lover-whatever-must be wife,Helga,(I was admittedly confused) will have a separate child that she may raise more conventionally away from high society.
In this case the suspected way to acquisition of sperm leads to a supposed short term vault at the sperm bank where parties divvy up and bring in their personal incubators to accomplish the task of creating an heir for Sabrina and son for Helga and Abe.
Sabrina gets her next Abe-number five- who manages, in the offing to off himself in a most awful way. Apparently unable to stand the effort of finding a willing womb and waiting any longer for things to come about Sabrina must opt to steal-Peter-the child of Helga.(Steal by first stealing his affection.)
Fast-forward we find Quicklime (Peter James) at college-his alma mater- doing janitorial work on the grounds. And thus we are introduced into his life of free wheeling care free drugs and alcohol with his room mates and boarders Raymond and Billy.
Quicklime Calcium oxide (CaO), commonly known as quicklime or burnt lime.
Quicklime It is a white, caustic, alkaline crystalline solid at room temperature.
That's the name of our anti-hero. The moniker he has taken for whatever reason. I'm not sure that we're ever really told why, but even so I'm not sure it would matter. This story reads much like all the brass in the house that might consume someones handiwork at keeping polished and yet serve only the purpose of attracting the eye to its glistening shine like sunlight coming over the horizon. There really seems no purpose.
In some ways Quicklime does seem caustic. Such as when he proposes to the driver of the car they bashed; that he'd become a raw vegan if she'd go out with him. It's this incident that leads him to his life as a porn screen play writer. Also it leads to his becoming a semi-Raw vegan.
Quicklime has a tattoo that he variously passes off as something other than what it is. When the reader is finally told what it is its not hard to understand that there's no confidence built into this story for the reader to rely on.
Value for value I went to the wiki-place to find the definition of the mans favorite drink. Caipirinha.
The word caipirinha is the diminutive version of the word caipira, which refers to someone from the countryside, being an almost exact equivalent of the American English hillbilly or the Lowland Scots teuchter. The word may be used as either a masculine or a feminine noun, but when referring to this drink it is only feminine (usage of diminutives is common in Brazil).
In the Brazilian vocabulary, the word caipirinha is mostly associated with the drink itself rather than the class of person.
I suppose it is appropriate that the character who might consider himself to be associated with both of those slurs of low life should have this as his favorite drink. It is helpful that the association of both this and the word lime in quick lime would lead to the revelatory method for cleaning the closed environment of the anti-heroes anti girlfriend. Though it's quite inventive to use a method for cleaning microwave ovens as a means to clean the grime off the domes I'm not sure how well that might work without thoroughly scrubbing everything before it has time to re-seat itself in all of its smear -ish dripping glory.
This whole story the novel is a long series of Analogs stuffed together side by side like rolls of socks or underwear in the dresser in some seeming order just waiting to be plucked out. It's like twisting a tale full of similes and metaphors with a few tongue and cheek mentions to further confound and befuddle the the reader. There are smatterings of pop references that will one day give the feel of some cockeyed inside joke when there are few people left to remember who's pop they reference.
At one point I began reading some of these out-loud to my wife who reads a lot of romance. She responded by reading portions of her current romance novel's analogs and the whole night digressed into a competition, which had us both rolling out of our lazy-boys. I have a lot more respect for those romance novel authors now.
I feel like having been exposed to the writing of someone who travel in a clique of writers who hold dear a certain number of inside jokes that they spread as if they are smatterings of autumn leaves that have been ripened beyond the smell of autumn and perhaps left at deaths door. They have a certain air about them.
There are three pornographic screenplays in this work. I'm sure in some way there could be said that they describe perhaps:
Where Quicklime came from (especially from his own perspective)
Where he was today (why relationships for him manage to suck)
Where things might end (almost with some inevitability.)
This makes these three eventful shorts integral to the plot beyond the fact that they are a main plot point to the entire novel. Which seemed too bad in the long run.
The blatant pornographic nature of the three shorts draws attention to the internal parts of this novel that border on pornography which has been gently imbedded into clever words. There is so much richness and depth to- not only what Andrew Branch has to say but how he says it that I feel its cheapened by the blatant attempt to shock the reader.
I would not recommend this to anyone- meaning that if they choose to read this then it has to be their choice. There is a lot here that might be enjoyed but the talent displayed has been disjointed like an over enthusiastic soccer players knees. And all of that effort to create some knee jerk reaction that may or may not serve a purpose.
I'm still not sure I got the point of the story and that might not be a bad thing.
For those who had to back track and re-read there is an easier way. Read through carefully; there are so many nuances and inferences within the writing its like every character is a palimpsest for the author to write their analog across so that both the face and the overlay come out in the readers mental-eye creating a blurred image that's often more descriptive than the original face might be.