Nikki's Journal By Nikole Hahn, Chino Valley, AZ firstname.lastname@example.org Book reviews, journaling, interviews and guest posts from authors, special columns like the latest, "Touring Arizona Coffee Houses: Havens for Writers," etc.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Flimsy, Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr is called a postmodern piece of literary fiction (or nonfiction). This book is a fine example of why we have writers groups, critique groups, and craft books as the writing lacks organization, chapters, transition and focus. The character, whomever he is, is dead, but he isn't dead, faking his death, and I am lost in a drunken daze without really understanding what was going on in the first place. When the teaser suggests this is a genre-bending novel or book, I see why. However, in trying to make this book or novel look fresh, the author loses me.
Apparently, this is a love story in which the protagonist (Ron Currie, Jr.) obsesses over Emma, fakes his death, and hides out in the Caribbean islands, but even after reading the foreword and the author's note (if that's what you call it), I still have no idea what is going on. According to what I researched, this is a novel, but it is also a memoir based loosely on Currie's life, longings, or whatever. The author's note and the foreword do not add anything to the novel or clear up any confusion. The only thing I can tell for certain is that he wrote this novel or book to give the overall populace a message.
I think Currie wrote well when he said, "And he's saying to me, Start in the middle. The beginning is really of interest only to you, buddy, is what he's telling me," and should have taken his own writing advice. The grammar and lack of necessary punctuation are distracting. It reads like a child wrote the book and yet the content is too mature for anyone under sixteen as Currie writes roughly about women, using disrespectful words. It's pointless in its ramblings and in its use of cursing and quoting of authors. As I got into chapter one, I realized this book or novel has no chapters. Conversations in the book lack quotations, and paragraphs were improperly indented.
The paragraphs are badly structured, the protagonist full of himself, and there are limited or no transitions between paragraphs as major info dumping happens in the first several pages. Currie's writing jumps from talking about Emma to switching suddenly, like the jeep he bought running into a low guard rail, to a different subject altogether. That paragraph about the jeep had no relation to the earlier paragraph which spoke of his adoration and obsession with Emma.
(after going on and on about Emma) "Maybe the difference, maybe Peter Cash's solution to the Adamantium of Emma's impassivity, is that he harbors no need to possess her in the first place. (new paragraph) I bought one of the ubiquitous old Jeep Cherokees on the island for five hundred bucks..."
Flimsy, Little Plastic Miracles actually refers to his nicotine patches on one page because he said: "I suddenly found space in my mind for thinking about something other than cigarettes. It was like mind control, like being Stepforded. Flimsy, little plastic miracles, those things." It made me wonder if this reflected the protagonist's view of life? Titles usually reflect the overall feeling of a book or novel, like the ribbon crowning a present. Romance writer, Kathleen Woodiwiss named a book, Petals on The River. She or the publisher titled this because of one scene. The protagonist sees the petals swirling chaotically in the river and relates this to her life. Flimsy, Little Plastic Miracles uses the nicotine patch nickname in the cynical sense as the overall title of the book. Then, there's the inconsistent and often harsh emotional aspect.
Emma and the protagonist have sex, and the tender moment described early in the novel or book lacks emotion. It felt cheap. The protagonist's view of women also felt the same. I lost interest. In other areas of the book, his downward fall into his own dark pit of anger or grief are effective until he suffers a little ADD and switches to a new subject.
Even as I tried valiantly to like the novel or book, reading painfully slow to understand the jumble of thoughts, I still didn't get the point. I began skimming. Ron is the protagonist, but he is also the author. It is a piece of fiction. He is fanatically in lust with Emma who is married, then, divorced. But the so-called love story is lost in his ramblings about fights, his father, jail, car crashes, and getting drunk.
In between his thoughts on Emma are his sexual relations with other women. The protagonist said: "After she dismantled me the first time, I became a seducer of women, and I sought alternately to F.... her away and take gentle revenge on her, using every other member of her gender as proxy."
The writing loses my sympathy when the protagonist has these relationships in spite of his so-called love for Emma. His thoughts towards the end of the book against Christianity calling it mythology did not reflect in my rating as it is part of the overall character of the protagonist. The author shared his religious views with Bookslut when his other book came out: "I'm not exactly sure how to answer that. I am not myself religious in any sense. I'm an atheist. Despite these things, though, I still experience strong spiritual yearnings, like most people, I think. I haven't figured out how to satisfy them, and I doubt that I will unless I decide at some point that there is, after all, a God. I just hope I don't end up one of those late-life foxhole converts. I want quite desperately to have the courage of my convictions, for once."
However, in Flimsy, Little Plastic Miracles, his character gets a bit harsher on it which is forgivable considering it's part of the character's story. Some reviewed Flimsy, Little Plastic Miracles as a sad love story.
It's hard to be sad about a story when you don't like the protagonist, his choices, or the writing. I think Emma was better off without the protagonist. She said the sex was better with him than the person she ended up with at the end of the book, but it isn't the sex that keeps you married. Because I had never heard of the word postmodern except in Christian circles, I had to look it up to learn about this genre. Wikipedia says:
Postmodern literature is post-World War II literature characterized by heavy reliance on techniques like fragmentation, paradox, and questionable narrators; such literature is seen as a reaction against Enlightenment ideas implicit in Modernist literature.Postmodern literature, like postmodernism as a whole, is hard to define and there is little agreement on the exact characteristics, scope, and importance of postmodern literature. But as is often the case with artistic movements, postmodern literature is commonly defined in relation to its precursor. For example, a postmodern literary work tends not to conclude with the neatly tied-up ending as is often found in modernist literature, but often parodies it. Postmodern authors tend to celebrate chance over craft, and further employ metafiction to undermine the writer's authority. Another characteristic of postmodern literature is the questioning of distinctions between high and low culture through the use of pastiche, the combination of subjects and genres not previously deemed fit for literature.
However, while authors such as Margaret Atwood made the L.A. Times annotated list of best postmodern literature, I still contend that the reader, the everyday Joe, is not going to care if it's postmodern literature or an artistic movement. The reader wants a good story, and Flimsy, Little, Plastic Miracles fails to deliver that promise.
I gave this novel one star, and I don't feel the writing deserves even that much recognition. I tried hard to find something positive to say about the writing, how some phrases jumped out as original and adept at describing a particular moment, but it wasn't this book's salvation. That's the risk of writing something different, throwing all the rules out the window, while you hope your readers get what you are attempting to say or do. Currie's work and polarizing reviews reflect our culture, and while some may call this art, art belongs in a museum, not in a novel or book.