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100 Books in a Year: #75 The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama’s Boy and Scholar by Scott Muskin

By Brian Prisco | Books | April 27, 2009 |

By Brian Prisco | Books | April 27, 2009 |

So one day, I’m sitting at home, when I receive a package in the mail. I love getting packages in the mail. In it, was a hardcover book I knew nothing about with a handwritten letter saying “Hey, someone said you’d probably like my book. Thanks — Scott.” And thus, thanks to the kind ministrations of Dustin Rowles and some of our readership, I was given Annunciations, winner of the Parthenon Prize for Fiction.

Both Dustin and The Boozehound gave this book explosively effusive recommendations, and I can only say, if you jive more with their style, you most assuredly must pick this up with hands and hug it to your chest and never ever let it go. Knowing what I do of these fine gentlemen, their praise makes absolute sense. This book was written for guys like them — smart asses in contented marriages, who write pithy commentary about life, mostly bitching about how inane and stupid it and everything else is. This book is well written, and stunning, and built around an excellent story. I just didn’t enjoy it.

Since Dustin and Senor Boynton wrote their summations, I’m making this mostly about my take. It felt mopey, like what would happen if Holden Caulfield grew up, went to college, and got unhappily married. And unlike you savages, I fucking LOVED Catcher in the Rye. Still do, bitches. Hank, our hero, is a pudgy whiner, who spends most of the novel complaining and feeling sorry for himself. His marriage is falling apart, but unlike mostly novelists, Muskin has the balls to have Hank desperately try to hold the shards together, which in turn makes him fall the fuck apart.

I’m at a point in my life where it feels like I’m doing that. I’m standing at the door of my own fucking dreams, and I’m not any closer than I was three fucking years ago, when I hauled my fat ass out to California. The only thing keeping me from putting a ring on my beloved’s finger is that my shitty credit would fuck up her credit, and we wouldn’t have the ability to buy a house. (That’s right — bad credit is keeping me a bachelor. Put that in your fucking commercial, Chase.) I spend every day wondering why the fuck I haven’t given up yet. Why I haven’t just up and fucking given up and taken a goddamn teaching job in some inner city school, or settled in to mind-numbing cubicle job like I’ve been struggling with the last five or so years. I haven’t tried to get an agent, haven’t really written anything new in some time, haven’t joined a theater troupe or improv group, haven’t gotten headshots with my face shaved, haven’t even fucking auditioned for everything, and I have the fucking cojones to call myself an actor-writer. I’m doing neither. And I hate fucking California. But here I sit, bitching and moaning about how I’m not doing it. Instead of getting up and fucking doing it. And that’s what fucking Hank’s doing. He sits there blubbering about his future and his failures, and then when shit gets real, he runs away or apologizes. He moves to fucking Montana to live in a barn owned by two gay guys named Tom and Jerry. Do you know how many times I’ve bought that fucking bus ticket? How my dream changed from making it huge to stuffing notebooks in a backpack and disappearing from my loved ones because I can’t bear to stand in the face of my own fucking shame at failing?

I think this book depressed me because I could relate. I’m not on the successful contented side of the street with Dustin and The Boozehound. I’m on the miserably mopey teen angsty side. And angst isn’t pretty when you’re 30. Muskin spoke to me, because I’m a schlub talking shit and self-deprecation at my failures. Only I don’t use so many fucking yiddish slang words in my writing. Okay, maybe a little. Muskin wrote an extremely effective novel, because it reached into my chest and pulled out my fucking failure and made me fucking stare at it. And I don’t want to do that. I don’t need that shit right now. I don’t want to know there are other assholes out there fucking up their lives and not having everything turn out happy and OK. I don’t want to be that asshole anymore! But I sit here, surrounded by half-started manuscripts and screenplays, a fucking digital camcorder I bought with my first Pajiba check sitting in the bedroom having never shot a single fucking frame, with my single greatest achievement of celluloid sitting on my fucking DVR (me giving the as my brother deems it the “Whatthefuck?” face to Damian Lewis on “Life”) and begging myself “How much longer?” How much longer am I going to have to endure this not doing what I want with my life? How much longer will I fucking stick it out until I’m a joke? How much longer until I fucking quit? And the answer is never. I’m going to keep plodding along like doughy-ass Hank until my brother or my mother or my lover beats some fucking sense into me. And that’s not a rally cry. It’s that I don’t know anything else. I’m too fucking scared to invent a plan B that doesn’t involve a short rope and a high shelf that’ll hold me. Do you see? Even this fucking post is more fucking whining!

So I write. I write angry hateful things about people making money doing what I want to be doing and doing it poorly. I’m that fucking kid with my nose up to the window begging to be let in. I’m just trying to figure out when I’m going to stop being retarded and start using the front door instead of the fucking window. So anyway, Scott, your book is great, but it’s so much my cup of tea, it’s not my cup of tea. But it’ll kick your ass people. And Muskin’s a solid fucking writer, so do him a favor, and pick up a goddamn copy. Because someone’s gotta be making money off depression. Might as well be a Minnesotan.

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

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