Joyless House Book reviews
First off, this is not an easy book to review. On any level. I could take the easy way out and toss off some gonzo gibberish that entertains, in a nauseous sort of way, but says nothing meaningful about the book in question. I could pimp the author’s name and label, tout the grease of my association and do a sort of pseudo-critical rail with an old mate for the sake of getting something down on the page about it. Make a pitch without making any judgment.
Some might say I’ve done it before. Well fuck you on that score, matey. Anyway, after a while that sort of tack gets to be like indulging a drink-lousy friend. Pounding back whisky shots while the laughs are coming fast then ditching out quick when the poor soak gets off on the inevitable crying jag. No way to treat someone you care about. Craven.
I will hereby try to give my honest-to-Pynchon impressions of Not Yet by Manuel Marrero. From Expat Press. Here goes.
And…HOLY JESUS!!! Two volumes clocking in at over 1,100 pages! That should effectively scare off 98% of the literate population. The “narrative” here is nonlinear, to say the least. (Marrero doing his best Maude Lebowski: “my art has been commended as being strongly Joycean Mumblecore”) There is a loose, Pynchonian narrative arc involving a cabal of time-travelish secret agents charged with thwarting, or possibly enabling the apocalypse that I guess can be taken however you like; cyberpunk-credible, meta-metaphorical, or a figment of the narrator’s imaginative paranoia. Some chapters read like transcribed text conversations with the delineations between parties mostly eradicated. Some read like prolix rap verses. Throughout, punctuation, capitalization and all rules of writing and grammar are optional or out the window. The whole thing comes barreling at you through the prolapsed mojo wire.
At the center of the book is a very modern romance carried out between the narrator and a married woman half the country away. The reader is treated to their constant horny, ecstatic, paranoid, unhinged text or phone conversations. They make plans to meet and fuck each other’s brains out, to make a new life together, and we’re not sure if they ever managed to meet or if the whole thing just fizzled in the ether. Acrimony ultimately ensues.
Not Yet is not a comfortable read, especially if you move in the author’s real world or interweb circles. You will read it hunched over, brow furrowed the shrill question on your lips: is he talking about me??? I’d say, don’t sweat it; it’s not important. We’re all in there somewhere. It’s ALL in there. What Marrero has done is basically turn his brain inside out and hand it to you. Take my life, please. And the author… well, scratch that, this is fiction after all… our narrator… he’s a sick boy. But he’s also heroic and brave. And ho-lee shee-it does he have a thing for words.
Not Yet is META. Not yet is soul vomit. Not Yet marches out to the end of the limb, the plank, and dangles there. It does this as a gift to the rest of us. It’s an act of faith and a call to arms for anyone who writes for, or reads Expat Press, for one thing, but also for anyone who believes in, or is otherwise compelled (doomed?) to explore artistic expression through the written word. Manny blows his brains out across the page so you don’t have to. You’re free to read the gooey Rorschach splotches and use what wisdom you can divine from them to guide you in your own artistic journey. Your weird-ass mission, should you choose to accept it…
(For the record: Manuel Marrero is my favorite rapper.)