Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reviewing My Own Books, Part Two: VODKABERG

I re-read my 2012 memoir VODKABERG while on various bus and train rides here in Peru in the last week. I already discussed my authorial intention in another post, but I'll share some of my thoughts on it.


Damn, that shit was dark! Maybe it seems doubly dark to me, since I was there, but it was even darker than I remembered. Like buried-alive kind of dark. A dysfunctional cast of lunatics fucking like rabbits and drinking themselves stupid between muggings in a shattered, bleak, frozen, blood-and-vomit flecked landscape. (That's how I'd pitch it to a movie studio, anyway.)

My editor hated the book and remarked on the first edit, "You're hardly in this book!" and I fucking loved that statement. The idea of writing a memoir that I wasn't really even the main character of appealed to me greatly, and that's just what I'd intended. This is a book about Vodkaberg, not about me.

THE GOOD

I thought I did an excellent job of bringing the First Putin Era to life. People have occasionally called it tedious and repetitive in its focus on endless fucking and drinking, but honestly, that was generally the focus of life in those dark days before fast internet for a good percentage of the population.

I think I did a good job in accurately portraying those various English groupies I knew, and girls like that were probably the rule rather than the exception. And all in all (I thought) I write about the female characters in a fairly sympathetic way. I hope my affection for them (albeit an exasperated affection) came through.

And call the sex scenes anything but tedious and repetitive. The ones that are fully described range from the weird to the downright cringe-inducing. (I'd somewhat forgotten how graphic I'd gotten in describing some of the acts, and I actually found myself sort of embarrassed reading some of them.)

The writing I thought was pretty good in that it didn't call much attention to itself; it just rolled out this cast of lunatics and nightmarish landscape in clear unaffected prose. No referring to myself in the third person here, no sarcastic asides, and not much rationalizing my bad behavior.

And god damn, the ending? Just fucking wrenching.

THE BAD

The drunk stories do indeed become repetitive, in the middle part with Slappy; that was somewhat my plan, though I realize that's a pretty fine line to walk when you try to antagonize the audience that way. I wanted to try to make the reader think, "Jesus, stop fucking drinking so much!" -- a reaction I remember having when I read Lawrence Block's WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES -- but I think I might have carried that a bit too far in the middle and might better have cut a bit of it.

Of course the Skype transcripts with Dark Angel were a controversial addition, and I agree upon re-reading I could have probably cut about half of those out and left the important stuff. (Because there is some important stuff in there.)

From the standpoint of somebody who was there, I thought I also didn't write about my cat enough. That fucking cat kept me sane, and if I'd added that the cat was sleeping comfortably on my neck purring happily during those grey hungover mornings, it might have lightened up the middle sections a bit.

THE ODD

My style of writing it -- everything chopped up into two or three paragraph sections -- is perhaps also a bit controversial. Obviously that happened because I recycled blog entries, but I've always liked books written like that -- Kurt Vonnegut, Bret Easton Ellis, Andrew Vachss -- and I guess it suits my writing well enough.

There are a few times when I take my internal monologues and put them into the form of a vague conversation with other people over drinks; this trick occasionally seems a bit too obvious.

THE CLASSIC

Yeah, again, I found it interesting as a time capsule. That we used to have bottled beer that cost about the same as bottled water in Russia struck me as pretty quaint. I didn't write about things like property prices; the apartment that I lived in would have cost about $25,000 to buy in 2000 and was probably worth $150,000 by 2009.

IN SUM

It's a real Russian novel -- a lengthy list of characters and dark and morbid as hell, an unflinching portrait of an unflinching time and place. I suppose it will be considered my Magnum Opus, and probably rightly so.


Read reviews at these links:

30 DAYS TO X  /  MATTFORNEY / GOODREADS / SOVIETCITY

DISCUSSION OF THE BOOK (AND ME) ON ROOSHV FORUM







5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Roosh V: "Yeah I was cool with him until he had a meltdown and went all anti-manosphere.

The reason his books are on Amazon is being I personally mentored him."


What does that mean?

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the "meltdown" is a reference to ETX's "Alpha Mystique" post, where he criticized the manosphere's obsession with being "alphas".

I think Roosh was annoyed because ETX said that fucking a lot of girls doesn't make you an alpha. Personally I agree, but a lot of guys base their lives around fucking their way towards validation, so they don't like to hear that.

englishteacherx said...

Yeah that was about it. As far as being "mentored" by him is was about like this on Twitter:

RooshV: Have you ever considered publishing your stuff as an E-book?

ETX: Yeah, I've been looking into that lately. Any advice?

RooshV: JA Konrath's blog is a good place to start.

ETX: Yeah, I've read that.

RooshV: Get a professional cover, and update your blog more often.

ETX: Yeah, I'm going to try to do that.

And that was about the extent of our correspondence, other than I sent him a couple of review copies. Surprisingly the main thing that seemed to make them angry was the joke I made on Twitter about the name "Manosphere" sounding like a New Orleans gay bar. I lost like 20 manosphere followers in one go.

Tom said...

I'm the one who introduced ETX in Roosh's forum, originally, likely when some guys were discussing TEFL. That was probably 6-8 years ago. I had been reading ETX for many years before that. I think, a little while after my mention, Roosh may have done a blog post featuring or mentioning ETX. Or something.

The point is fuck RooshV if he's taking credit for "mentoring" you.

You don't owe him nor anyone a thing. If you owe him, then he owes every one of his significant forum contributors for providing the community and most of the initial content. Especially the core group that was there in the beginning stage.

The point is that his taking credit for you is a stupid, hypocritical, thoughtless comment. The ETX content is definitely an original animal that stands on its own. Roosh writes some decently written and argued articles, but his overall writing style isn't near as engrossing as that of ETX. If you'll excuse the massage.

I don't necessarily agree with ETX's "Alpha Mystique" critique, but the thoughts were good and certainly worth discussing. I baffled that guys would get so distraught over some free thought. They've got themselves entirely too worked up over there, their valid general arguments aside.

lol. It does sound like a gay bar. It's very similar to the popular "manhole". I can see that legitimately funny jab riling them up, though. That sounds antagonistic toward them, but I tend to agree with them more than I don't especially re various hypocrisies in modern sciopolitics. But funny is funny.

Tom said...

Btw, what I came to comment on orginally:

I think that your book met all of your perceived goals and your criticisms are valid. My impressions were exactly those to which to aspired. No shit. I also would have liked for the cat to have been featured more.