Monday, September 18, 2006

Mary Gaitskill: Veronica

Reviewed by: Lawrence Richette

I don't know Lawrence Richette, but he has written an honest and excellent review.


Mary Gaitskill is, beyond any doubt, the finest short story writer of my literary generation. Both BAD BEHAVIOR and BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO contain stories that will be read as long as people voluntarily read American fiction. I am thinking in particular of "The Girl On The Plane" in the latter collection, which may be the best story anyone in America has written in the past twenty years.

Until now, though, Gaitskill's reputation has rested on her stories. Her first novel, TWO GIRLS FAT AND THIN, came as a severe disappointment to most of her ardent fans. Gaitskill seemed to be doing too many things at once, a not uncommon fault of first novels. She was dramatizing a bizarre, quasi-lesbian relationship between the two girls, while also trying to write a novel of ideas--the book contains a laborious parody of Ayn Rand's Objectivism, which Gaitskill called Definitism.

But last year Gaitskill published VERONICA, which for all its faults, and none of them are fatal, is probably the most beautifully written American novel I have read in the past decade. It was deservedly nominated for the National Book Award in 2005, showing that the literary Establishment is not altogether without taste.

"We were stupid for disrespecting the limits placed before us. For tearing up the fabric of songs wise enough to acknowledge limits. For making songs of rape and death and then disappearing inside them. For trying to go everywhere and know everything. We were stupid, spoiled, and arrogant. But we were right, too. We were right to do it even so."

This is the reflective, grieving voice of Alison, a formel model now living with hepatitis C in Marin County, reflecting on her Eighties from the perspective of the new millennium. VERONICA is brilliantly structured around an ordinary day in Alison's life, during which she remembers her friendship with Veronica, whom she met during a brief spell of office work in Manhattan.

When the book opens, Veronica has already died of AIDS-- a plot point which Gaitskill deliberately reveals as early as possible, so that she can get down to the real subjects of her novel, which I take to be the way memory works and, even more important, the distance between the glittery, empty decade the Eighties turned out to be and the numbed years of the Age of Bush.

Alison runs away from her home in New Jersey and ends up first in San Francisco, where a sleazy catalogue agent more or less rapes her, then in Paris and Rome, then back in New Jersey, where she finds that her family has fallen apart because her mother has left her father. It is in these scenes of domestic life that Gaitskill achieves a new tenderness . Alison has two younger sisters, Daphne and Sara, who react very differently to the separation of their parents. Gaitskill surpasses herself in the scenes involving Alison's kid sisters, reminding me that for all her transgressive qualities, Gaitskill is at heart a realist, and a precise and disciplined realist at that.

Like most Gaitskill heroines, Alison experiences sex as domination and humiliation. Alain, "the most powerful agent in Europe," into whose hands Alison falls in Paris, is also the only man Alison seems to love. He glories in betraying her, first sexually, then by embezzling the money Alison thinks she has stashed in a Swiss bank account. The sex in VERONICA is no more graphic than Gaitskill usually describes, but for the first time she has managed to integrate it successfully into a full-length narrative.

In TWO GIRLS Justine Shade, the narrator, was too much the would-be dominatrix, and the novel ended with a quasi-lesbian coupling that left me wondering why Gaitskill couldn't have thought of a more original conclusion. Here, on the other hand, the sexual passages are not only sharply observed and beautifully written, they are always in service to the larger design:

"Fucking Gregory Carson was like falling down the rabbit hole and seeing things fly by without knowing what they meant. Except I WAS the rabbit hole at the same time...I was on my back and he on his knees; he grabbed my ankles and spread my legs over my head until my pelvis split all the way open...his stomach stuck out like a proud drum and I could feel his asshole alight and tingling on the edge of his spine. His face looked like he was saying, Remember this when they're taking your picture. Remember THIS."

Thus Alison recalling her first, degrading fuck with the sleazy catalogue agent in San Francisco. I am not giving away any trade secrets of fiction writing when I point out that sex scenes may be the hardest of all types of scenes for a contemporary novelist to manage. Gaitskill pulls off the trick beautifully here. As always, she strikes a perfect balance between the ugliness of the action and the exact justice of her observations.

What keeps VERONICA from being the fully realized masterpiece it could have become is Gaitskill's unfortunate tendency to overwrite. It may well be that she labored too many years over this particular piece of fiction. For some odd reason, Gaitskiill's stylistic ear almost never betrays her in her short stories. In VERONICA, however, her well-known love for Nabokov results in over-jewelled sentences like this alliterative clunker:

"(Somewhere the driver is still trying to change his tire while his rotating red light rhythmically drenches the dirt and sweeps the sky.)"

Gaitskill, for all the virtuousity she displays in VERONICA, remains an essentially realistic and quotidian writer, a poet of the everyday rather than a fabulist. I fear she does not understand her own strengths and weaknesses. Nabokov, her god, is the most single pernicious influence on English-language fiction in the last fifty years, followed closely by Thomas Pynchon. What Nabokov did, at his best, is unrepeatable.

For one thing, you need to be multilingual, as he was and no American novelist (to my knowledge) is, to pull off the magical effects he achieved in the English language. For another, Gaitskill--like the infinitely less talented Martin Amis--seems to be a captive to the theory that every sentence must be beautiful or at least striking. This is a tactical and strategic error. It results, in VERONICA, in a novel that demands the sort of patient, leisurely reading that almost nobody except a die-hard Gaitskill fan will give a novel.

But VERONICA, for all its faults, remains the most beautiful novel I or any of my literary contemporaries have managed to achieve so far. There is more thought and feeling in any paragraph of Gaitskill's prose than in an entire novel by Jay McInerney. I only hope that Gaitskill continues to write novels, perhaps spending less time at the word processor and (paradoxical as this sounds) writing faster. There is an energy and a freedom to VERONICA, when Gaitskill is firing on all cylinders, that reminded me of why I had always spoken of her writing with such reverence to my friends.

This elegy to the Eighties speaks to all of us who were young in that decade, whether or not we were female, whether or not we were models. VERONICA avoids the twin pitfalls of sentimentality and banality by the exquisite blend of artful structure (one day in Alison's life and memories) with the precision of Gaitskill's observations. If the novel finally does not succeed at the highest level, it is nevertheless so much better than anything anyone our age has pulled off that its faults are irrelevant next to the surface tension Gaitskill creates.

Reading her for me, as a survivor of the Eighties who did time in Manhattan, was like dipping into a pack of Proustian madeleines. I remain convinced that Mary Gaitskill is the most authentic and gifted writer of fiction under fifty in America.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Noah Cicero: The Condemned

Reviewed by: Tao Lin

Tao Lin acknowledges he personally knows Noah Cicero. In fact, Noah has reviewed one of Tao's books on this site.

Noah Cicero's The Condemned uses clear, concrete, and concise sentences. The advantage of direct and concrete sentences is that no one feels stupid. Give Noah's book to anyone walking on the street and they'll read it and understand what is happening. When I read it I read one sentence and understand. Then read the next, and so on. Sometimes I laugh. I feel different emotions continuously while reading, instead of feeling no emotions and being removed from the reality of human beings, which is what most books do to me. Noah writes:

I try to make friends.
But I never can.
I can't handle people.
They never stop lying.
I can't think anymore.

Noah doesn't create something from nothing. He understands reality as it is, without preconception or delusions. He doesn't use abstractions. When you use an abstraction you yourself are defining that word or best, better, for example which by itself has no meaning, then forcing that definition onto the reader. Therefore you are saying that in your relationship with the reader you are GOD and the reader is a HAMSTER or something. A dirty hamster. And that's what the reader feels like (or what the reader will feel like if he or she has low self-esteem, does not know how to think for him or herself, or has been raised to believe in things like higher-education, authority, going to college, getting a degree, wearing suits, which is most of the population) if they read something with indirect, abstract language, where the meaning is not clear most of the time because the meaning is not clear to the writer him or herself (which is okay if the writer is sarcastic or self-conscious about it, and lets the reader know that him or herself is confused, which Noah will do sometimes; like if he uses a cliche "belly of the beast” he will bring attention to the meaninglessness of the cliche.)

Here is a random excerpt from something on elimae:

Keep it up with olive
oil soap, just like Sophia

Loren, they call
from their chipped sea

tile stoops, their emblematic
brooms like spears piercing

Some people will read that and feel smart and think, I must be smart to understand that. Some people will read it and think, I must be too stupid to understand that. Most people walking on the street will read it and think, I'm too stupid to understand that, which makes them feel retarded and inferior, which sets them up to be exploited by someone else, because lowering someone's self-esteem and making them feel like an ant is the first step to oppressing them, after which you use them as means to your ends.

Meaningless, abstract, indirect language causes and perpetuates racism, sexism, genocide, war, injustice, etc. and takes away responsibility from actions by way of muddling the links between actions (cause) and effects (Just look at the language of all oppressive governments ever.) But if you ask a Thomas Pynchon reader who is trained by reading Thomas Pynchon, in a way, to be more unconcise and meaningless in his everyday language if they are against oppression they will all say, Yes. I'm a liberal.

With Noah's writing no one will think, I must be too stupid to understand that. Therefore Noah is not contributing to the shit, pain, and suffering of the world.

The more dilute the language is in terms of meaning the more shit, pain, and suffering will exist in the world, because the more meaningless and indirect the sentence is the less people will be able to comprehend the message, which in addition to making some people feeling stupid makes it harder for people to make choices and act based on the truth. For example, if you know that buying Coke causes suffering in the world, and it is proven to you, then you probably will stop buying Coke, in the same way that you won't just punch a homeless person in the face randomly. Direct, factual language can prove that, can link the action to the consequence. But indirect, abstract, and unconcise language does the opposite; it can be used by the Coca-cola corporation to hide facts and muddle the link (you can extrapolate this to everything; government, tobacco, relationships, etc.)

Here is another excerpt from Noah's book:

In a small rented house.
Kathy sits on her couch.
Eight months pregnant.
She bends over.
Using a rolled up dollar she sniffs a line of coke off the coffee table.

You can't delete any of those words. Noah used the least amount of words
possible to convey the information in his head. He was concise. This is compassionate of Noah. When you use more words than it takes it's nalogous to going up to someone you don't know and saying, I'm going to start talking for a while about things that don't mean anything. You're going to listen. Then standing there talking. That's what it's like when you write a 1000 page book.

Look at Thomas Pynchon. Have you ever met a humble, or unpretentious
person who reads Thomas Pynchon? Have you ever heard someone say something about Thomas Pynchon's writing like, I was depressed and alone, then I read Thomas Pynchon and felt good about life, or, I read Thomas Pynchon and then gave away my Hummer, sold my horn-rimmed glasses, and gave all my money to a homeless person?

Besides language there is also tone. Noah's tone is consistent with his language in terms of its effect on the reader. (Mostly consistent. I'm not sure about some of the things, like when Noah starts attacking religion and things like that. Though I guess that's still consistent, because he's attacking specific things that cause pain and suffering.) For tone the equivalent of meaningless, abstract language is confidence, authority, and excluding information if it shows weakness; while the equivalent of direct, concrete language is self-doubt, admitting weakness, admitting confusion, and being honest. Noah does this:

It was hard finding free internet porn that would get me off back in the late nineties. It wasn't like it is today.

But I always persevered.

If it took two hours on my knees in front of the computer, I would do it.


You just sit on your ass staring at your living room.

Looking at what little you have.

I didn't talk much about the subject matter of the book. That is okay. I talked about style. Subject matter maybe does not affect the reader's view of the world as much as style does. If the reader is racist, thinks in preconceptions, and is unable to think concretely, they will interpret all situations with that worldview. They will read a book about strippers and say something cliched and meaningless. They will read a book about trees and say something cliched and meaningless. They will write a book about Buddhism or strippers or Iraq and they'll all have that same deluded, preconceptive point of view. The underlying thing is the worldview. How you interpret things. And this is conveyed through style. You can tell what kind of a person a person is by looking at their style, not their subject matter. And if you convey your worldview through your style you might be able to change a person's way of seeing the world. Maybe. I don't know. If you write factually, directly, and honestly on any subject matter, the consequences of that subject matter will become clear and the reader will be able to act accordingly.

The person who writes without excluding information will, through his style, come to include all subject matter in his books or at least all subject matter that the characters in his books would encounter. Style dictates subject matter to some degree. Because I think style, or worldview, is the underlying thing and so it influences everything. Style is to personality as subject matter is to situation, is what I'm saying.

In conclusion, Noah's book is a good book if you define bad as “Pain and suffering. Noah is a stylist like Hemingway is a stylist. But Noah and
Hemingway's style is dictated by rules that actually reduce pain and suffering in the world, by way of being direct, honest, concrete, concise, and factual.

[Blog person note: me, I'm kinda a socialist anarchist. I'm an agnostic ('cause I'm chicken enough to hedge my bets). At times even a Liberal. I believe content is as important as style. Maybe more important. Actually, it is more important! But I also believe there is room for everything. Especially on an underground review blog. If not here, where? I hope this review stirs debate, or the bait, or baits you, or at least a phone call from Norman Bates.]

Carol Lewis/Karen Lillis: Magenta's Adventures Underground

Reviewed by: Bernice Mullins

Bernice is a ULA member.

ISBN: 0-9753862-0-4
Published by Words Like Kudzu Press, NY

Magenta’s Adventures Underground is an interesting modernization of Alice in Wonderland. It isn’t some cheese-mo psychedelic goth fairy tale, though; just like Alice, Magenta has a political agenda.

There are familiar images from the classic story. Certain images, Lewis left untouched. Magenta curtsies constantly. Other scenes, Lewis gives her own twist and makes them pertinent to the present. For example, a very disturbing game of chess: “The game: The chessmen, Magenta took note, were in military gear: Pawns were combat troops and members of the taxpaying workforce, Knights were soldiers in tanks, Rooks were single-family homes with a full arsenal ofrifles in the basement, Kings were business moguls with their fingers hoveringabove the red button should the market need a nuclear attack to help it along,and Queens were transvestite hookers in full makeup and six-inch heels; ontheir heads they wore nurses’ caps.”

Magenta is already underground when the book begins. She hasn’t followed a rabbit down a hole; she was pushing and shoving down the steps in Grand Central Station. The chess game, being played by a dog, a vulture, and a cat-lizard is taking place in the terminal of the number seven train. Magenta relates her story to this talking animal audience. She expresses her disillusionment at finding New York, once a haven for misunderstood artists, writers, and assorted other weirdoes, overrun by elitist trendy fuckers.

“We came to this city a few years ago from another planet, my brother and I; we were determined to find Bohemia; we headed straight for the East Village. When we got there we realized: we were thirty years too late. The apartment we landed—which once housed spontaneous theatre events and cost its renters $25.00 a month—costs us $2500 . . . There was a time when everyone who wished to could live here for a song.”

Magenta leaves not long after that along with a rat. While on the uptown A train, she sees a wounded Iraqi pigeon, sent by the UN, give a speech, to which no one listens. The pigeon begs the train passengers, (who later throw rotten tomatoes at him) “PRETTY-PLEASE DON’T BOMB MY COUNTRY.” Magenta is then sexually assaulted and beaten by a female security officer. She slips into an unconsciousness clouded with strange and vaguely erotic dreams. When she wakes, she is in an underground cave, surrounded by Discarded Veterans. The book ends with an endless dance with a three-legged dog.

For anyone who enjoyed Alice in Wonderland enough to do more than watch the Disney cartoon, Magenta is a welcomed updated version too dark and complex to be encompassed in a 90 minute G-rated feature. Even if you’ve never read Alice in Wonderland, Lewis’ book is fun and entertaining. It is sadly funny at some points, and it will make you mad about all the right things. Of course, we’re all mad here . . .

C.B. Forest: Chasing Pace

Reviewed by: Leopold McGinnis

Leopold is a ULA member.

ISBN: 1894494-86-5Baico Publishing$22.95 C$, 17.95 $US315

Unlike most books I read, I was a bit privy to this book’s journey to publication. First time Ottawan author, C. B. Forrest, spent a few years shipping the thing around and, at one point, finding an interested publisher who couldn’t decide whether it should be written in 1st or 3rd person had the author re-write it into 3rd before deciding it was better in 1st and then going out of business.

After another series of submissions the book was picked up by a small press just across the border in Quebec and published, after conversion again, in 3rd person. If anything, this highlights how editors, for the most part, should focus on publishing, rather than nit-picking the instincts of the author.

Anyway, knowing all this and receiving a complimentary copy of the book via a friend in Ottawa, I set into the novel. Here is the review:

Chasing Pace is, superficially, about a small town Canadian journalist in his forties, Ben Canon, who has never really amounted to anything. Recently divorced, even more recently unemployed and an alcoholic/self-medicator who boards with an 80 year old ‘captain’ Ben suddenly decides the best way to spend his severance cheque and solve all his and the world’s problems is to drive down to Miami to find the star of a short-lived children’s television show from his youth: Commander Pace. Along the way he runs into a blind barber, a corrupt cop, a cop who’d rather be a Buddhist and a one-legged stripper who all, in some way, help him come to grips with his own demons.

Overall, Chasing Pace is a good read, mostly for the reason that the plot keeps rolling and never really goes where you expect it to go. The characters, as well, all stray far enough from stereotypes to keep them interesting, as well. Chasing Pace is by no means a ‘book you can’t put down’ but is definitely a book you keep wanting to come back to.

The book, however, seems a lot like a Frank Kapra-corn film but with strippers and alcoholics. This is mostly good, however, the scenarios and characters often wade a bit too close to cliché/corn – strippers with hearts of gold, small town corrupt cops, citizens uniting to thwart the mean-spirited schemes of the town’s own Mr. Potter-type and open a drug clinic…

Yet, no character is without his quirks/problems and stay far enough away to avoid being too cliché. In some ways, these are like Kapracorn characters updated for the new millennium and for this reason remain interesting. The end of the novel is satisfying, however, despite avoiding the clichéd happy ending, wraps up a little too cleanly and not exactly believably. Ben Canon comes to terms with his own personal problems finally; however it’s not clear why this happens, exactly. It’s accepted, but the connections and the catalyst to the events in the story aren’t quite solid enough.

I’m certainly not against polemics or saying something in a story and give points to this book for its efforts, however, the points it does make come dangerously close to being preachy (on somewhat tired topics – manhood, war, death, life) near the end. [Another weird thing about the novel is that virtually every character seems to have been involved in a major war (Korea, WWII, Vietnam, Yugoslavia…), yet totally independent of the plot. Ben Canon’s obsessive attachment to his long dead grandfather is also a bit difficult to understand.]

Overall, however, Chasing Pace is an enjoyable novel, better than most you’ll find on the corporate bookshelves. It isn’t snobby and it takes the risk of saying something. The writing and plotting are incredibly, incredibly tight and the storyline intriguing. If you’re looking for something with a solid plot, interesting characters, unpretentious, tight writing while providing something other than the tired same-old then Chasing Pace should satisfy.

Tao Lin: You Are a Little Bit Happier than I Am

Reviewed by: Noah Cicero

Noah acknowledges that he knows Tao Lin personally, that they are friends and even work together. On this site, they have reviewed each other's books.

Ludwig Wittgenstein said, serious and good philosophical work could be
written consisting entirely of jokes, and that's what You Are a Little Bit
Happier than I am is, it is a philosophical treatise on the emptiness and
alienation on the first years of the 21st Century. You are a Little Bit Happier than I am shows a world where humans are all lost in their internal monologues, so alienated they cannot even speak to each other, everyone is lost- floating.

The title itself, You Are a Little Bit Happier than I am, shows what kind of
people Americans have become, everyone in America is refusing to listen to the sadness of other people and instead reply, I don't care about your shit, you are a little bit happier than I am, what do I care about you. That America has an epidemic of self-loathing and self-pitying people that refuse to help each other because each person views themselves as the most pitiful creatures alive.

The language in You are a Little Bit Happier than I am is not poetic. If these are even poems we cannot be sure. There are a lot of paragraphs, there is no meter applied, no musical voice, just a collection of loosely connected concrete and direct sentences. It doesn't matter if there are poems. Perhaps they are something new, some new 21st Century Language resulting from a person's main use of text coming from instant message chats and emails. Tao Lin writes about emails often, “I woke up at 12:30 p.m. and sat on my bed. I emailed people and ate cereal and that took three hours because I took my time. When I finished I didn't know what to do so I emailed some more people.

Tao Lin in I am about to express myself follows Rimbaud's philosophy of saying exactly what he means:

I want to check my email
I want to see a movie
I want to kill people
Feels like I need to kill someone
I want to kill you
I hate everything

As you can see from those lines Tao Lin is not trying to win you over with his knowledge of poetry he received in creative writing class. He is just saying it.

Tao Lin wants to kill people. All Americans want to kill people. If we didn't
want to kill people we wouldn't sit for hours and play video games here we
shoot digital images that resemble humans, we wouldn't watch horror and action movies. Living in America, waiting in all these long lines, having our favorite shows interrupted for commercials, all these 401K plans, our lack of health insurance, our low pay, our idiotic power hungry bosses, our congested highways, the inability of our government to even care that the bottom 80 percent of the population even exists makes us want to kill people.

Tao Lin talks about how there is too much information:

And making choices
about what to Google
what information to exclude
and who to blame

The people of the 21st Century are facing an existential problem, there are too many choices. Back in the day a man would work at their dad's job, his dad would get him a union card and he would go to the factory or become a carpenter. Women would become housewives or work as a secretary. But now with loans and grants and the amount of occupations technology has created even at our local vocational schools there are over thirty occupations a person can pick from. A lot of young people get so bombarded with different occupations they can do, they decide to do none. It is the same way with ideas, back in the day you believed in the King, or you lived in a small town and you were sheltered and believed in whatever small town philosophy it had. But now you can live in a small town and Google everything from Nazism, the Green Party, Eastern Mysticism, Communism, Anarchism, ECO-Terrorism, existentialism, Christianity and

Jean Paul Sartre's theory was that man is condemned to freedom. That are main suffering comes anguish which is the fact that we are always forced to make a choice. Back in the day when our worlds were small, there were very few choices, but now because of the internet, television, quick and easy transportation our worlds have become big, and if our worlds are big, then we have an abundance of choices: and that's when Tao Lin's question comes in what information to exclude? How do we settle on one choice, on one thing? If you can't settle on one thing immediately then anxiety comes.

Outside I thought I saw someone I knew and felt afraid. Tao Lin shows how people have become afraid of each other in America. People in America have been taught and showed subliminally that all other humans are trying to take their job, take their lovers, steal their shit, betray them, sell their secrets to the national media, and perhaps are terrorists and are trying to kill them.

Existentially America is in such a state of judging other people, that everyone is looking at each other in terms of are, Are you cool?Are you this political party? Do you believe in saving the environment? Do you eat meat? Do you smoke? Do you condone the sex industry? Are you pro or anti abortion? Do you listen to pop music or indie music? Where do you shop? Are you anti-SUV? Are you for gay marriage? etc etc etc! It has become like Stalinism in the way we judge people here. We judge each other so much a lot of us have become afraid of other people, afraid of their criticisms.

But what I think Tao Lin is talking about in You are a Little Bit Happier than I am is that he doesn't want to judge other people so harshly. Tao Lin in poem to end my head off the masterpiece of the collection results in talking about animals and declaring there is no free will, in my opinion he mentions the animals because at least animals don't judge, at least animals don't walk around making up pseudo identities to fight about and fight wars for. And he declares there is no free will not because there isn't any, because he often in the book talks about choices, but because if there is no free will, then we can't blame each other, and if we can't blame each other, then we can't judge and criticize and be dicks for no reason.

You are a Little Bit Happier than I am is about how silly our thoughts are in the 21st Century, how we don't think straight, how we spend more time checking our email than actually having fun, how we spend our time thinking about getting the best sales on laundry machines than spending time with friends, we are Googling rather than experiencing. Instead of making machines work for us, we let the machines work us, and have become like machines.

Giridhar Veeramaneni: Enjoy The Journey

Review by Leopold McGinnis

Leopold is a ULA member.

Whenever I attend book fairs, comic conventions etc… I try to pick up one thing. Exhibiting at the Toronto Small Press Book Fair in May I had about the last 5 minutes of the show to look around. I picked up Enjoy the Journey almost purely on a whim. I suppose I felt kinship with an author struggling to sell their self-published work at a somewhat empty fair. Also, I’ve never gone wrong with an Indian author and a few brief glimpses at the text convinced me that this writer would be no different. I don’t know what it is, but I have yet to run across an Indian author I haven’t liked.I’m quite pleased to add Giridhar Veeramaneni to that list.

Enjoy the Journey is a great example of a book that would probably never get picked up by a ‘professional’ press – big or small. Wittingly or not, it breaks all the rules. It’s a collection of 23 stories that are refreshingly sincere, open and unpretentious about everyday mundane things. It’s not about extreme poverty, or the grand bourgeoisie or the privileged artist. Its stories have clear endings, often with a simple moral or lesson - if not the reader, than for the narrator. There are small spelling mistakes and unusual grammar in the book that I’m sure any publisher would point out.

But these ‘incorrect’ (but sensible) aspects really support not only the authors voice, but the fact that this is a real book put together by a real person who lives in real life. A professional editor would probably read a middle-road writing group hack who’ll never make it. I read something quite different from this.

Enjoy the Journey’s stories range from Found by the Sheppard, in which the narrator humorously compares a church (which he tells his wife he is going to) with a strip club next door (which is where he actually goes), to Surviving in Toronto, which isn’t so much a story as a series of tips on how to save money by carrying around free napkins you get at fast food joints, arranging your bus trips to exploit holes in the transfer system, etc…

There is no high art here, no pretension, just simple stories about life. Sometimes they clean up a little too cleanly, are almost a bit too much Reader’s Digest (although the Indo-Canadian immigrant angle helps keep this from being cliché), yet you easily forgive this because reading Enjoy the Journey feels like reading a letter from a close, sincere friend.Nearly every story situates the narrator as an outsider learning a new environment, culture or job, observing, misunderstanding, erring and then finally understanding his surroundings.

I think any undergrounder could appreciate the frank, honest and sincere way Veeramaneni looks at the world. Sheshu the Philosopher is a great story about classism/elitism that any underground enthusiast can relate to. Arranged Marriage provides a really interesting look at arranged marriages vs. the western dating system and provides a strong argument for and against both.

One of my favourite moments in the book comes in Creative Writer when the narrator, who has suddenly decided he doesn’t want to be an engineer or doctor like all the rest of the people in his town in India, but a creative writer instead. He applies for a school in Canada with the hopes of studying creative writing. He is so busy that he barely gets a chance to write and so, at the last minute, cobbles something together for the deadline. He is not accepted. It is a big moment of disappointment for the narrator as it represents a complete failure of his dreams. I, on the other hand, bit my nails in anticipation of this and cheered loudly when he failed to be accepted: Enjoy the journey is an excellent example of all the things a professional writing program would crush out of an author – halting someone from following their own path, making their own understandings, being honest and sincere, characteristics Veeramaneni’s work and characters thrive with. After a while, the author overcomes this and pursues his own path in becoming a writer.

I assume this story is true to Veeramaneni’s own experience and it’s a delightful moment in the book because if he had gotten into that course, I have much doubt that he would have gone on to write these honest, relevant and, most importantly, personally unique stories, nor would he have self-published and I wouldn’t have been reading it or enjoying it enough to review it here.

I really recommend this book if you can get your hands on it.

To order: The book is available on, however if you contact the author at I’m sure you can get a good discount off the Amazon price and a signed copy.

The World Is Ours--and Yours!

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