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January 27, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | January 27, 2009 |

This novel was the equivalent of someone making a story out of the Pajiban comment threads. Now, stop for a second, because I can feel everyone getting all excited and thinking how awesome! But, wait. It would be like someone taking random non sequiturs, clever little jibes, random soapbox rants, constant drug and drinking references, sexual innuendo, and pop culture and regurgitating it haphazardly. Forget character, forget interesting plot, just pack your story with twentysomething quarterlife crisis, make a bong reference, and then sit back and smugly await your kudos.

I really REALLY wanted this novel to be better, because it was written independently and self-published by a friend of a Pajiban, and I love nothing more than heralding new talent. And Marcus Eder has got talent. You can see it, hiding behind the Starbucks chic and typical coffeehouse stage ranting. This novel is the post-modern bastard of Chuck Palahniuk and Quentin Tarantino, godfathered by Swingers. It is something that I could have written — but in a blog. While the premise is semi-interesting and original, the general theme is so generic, it makes me angry. It’s a mannequin covered in tattoos and blue hair, full of anti-corporate rhetoric and Bukowski baptismal font, but underneath it all it’s a really boring snapshot of a lame pothead pushing thirty.

And that’s what’s so painful about reading this. You can literally trace the magazine cutouts from the various sources that Eder’s pasting together to make this collage. It’s as if he thought by making a mix tape out of all the things people of Generation X - Y dig, it would cover up his terrible plot. And the plot is terrible: a group of former art students — who sold out to corporate America — get shitcanned during the dot com bubble burst, so they spend their days sitting around their apartment, dubbed “The House of Pain,” smoking pot and drinking at dive bars. They end up growing a super strain of pot called Glass Jaw, that they sell to earn a living. Our hero is a dude named Escher Smallwater, who gets monthly tattoos and smokes so much pot that he doesn’t even get high anymore. And so we gets Escher’s take on life as he just tries to get by.

I don’t smoke pot and I never have. The reason being that I’m afraid I would turn out like the characters in this novel. Boring and predictable and lamely presumptive of their own cleverness. They are the kind of uber potheads who shop at thrift stores and celebrate 4:20 like a religious ceremony. They listen to Coltrane and get Bukowski poems tattooed on their arms. Marijuana is the end-all be-all of their existence.

And the problem is, Eder’s too smart and clever to be trying to velcro his worldview to characters this boring. For every neat thing that happens or semi-interesting moment, you get wrapped up in the self-conscious nicknames and boring rants. I wanted him to distill the crap out of this knock-off Tarantino bullshit and just tell it how it is. He’s better than this book — but he got it published and it is available in bookstores right now, so what do I know?

The thing is, he’s got a book based on an idea from this novel called “Nobody Puts Swayze In The Corner: The Tao of Swayze.” It’s written by characters from this novel. Now, this is something I can get behind. I would be willing to bet that the Swayze book is a thousand times more profound and interesting that anything from Rorschach’s Ribs — which answers the question what is the next logical creative misstep after writing angsty teenage poetry? Why, writing a twentysomething coming-of-age story full of hipster wisdom.

I want people to read Eder’s stuff, because he deserves a fighting chance. And it might very well speak to you. I’m beyond the quarterlife crisis, so I don’t long to read about that crap. But, I remember when I was younger, I listened to that fucking Jimmy Eat World CD with “The Middle” on it like 25 times a day. Because at the time, that’s what I needed to hear. And I wrote a bunch of navel-gazing plays during that period. Older people in the audience were disgusted and bored. The kids just starting off in life — it was fucking manna from heaven because it spoke to them. Eder’s written something like that. But I personally think he’s capable of more. I think this is the junk he needs to get out of his system so that he can really have something to say.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here.

Cannonball Read / Brian Prisco

Books | January 27, 2009 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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