THE SERIALIST by David Gordon

Book Quote:

“Yes, I admit I was a poet once. No, I wasn’t much good. I’m not claiming to be some thwarted, tragic genius. This isn’t that kind of story. The fact is, like many a socially awkward man-child, good with words but bad with people, I broke out in poetry, like acne, somewhere in preadolescence, and by the time I met Jane, versifying had already become one of those vestigial gifts, like card tricks or making crepes, that we trot out only on request.”

Book Review:

Review by Maggie Hill (APR 5, 2010)

This is a quick-witted, rhythmically-moving, false-positive of a novel – pick it up, put it down, pick it up… won’t get lost. See, the author ‘talks’ to you (the reader) through the whole story. Actually, the author is basically sitting on the sofa with you, reaching over to turn the page. It’s kind of flattering, really. He doesn’t want you to miss anything.

The story is about a writer who makes a buck. How do writers make a buck? (Hey, not by reviewing books. Trust me.) See the way I just wrote that? That’s how the author talks throughout The Serialist. But here’s the bonus: this guy is really funny. He can tell a story, boy-o. And tell them, he does. He tells them and talks to you at the same time. Which sounds annoying, and is sometimes. Mostly, it’s clever and smirky, and a couple of times, pretty freakin’ funny.

Harry Bloch is a self-professed hack. He’s a ghostwriter of the lowest kind. He’s got a facility with putting enough words down to create a story and he cashes in on it. The reader will get snippets from his sci-fi, detective, mystery, porn writing, all of which support the claim that the guy can put together words. He writes for rent, not love.

In a funny bit, and also the introduction to the cool character, Claire, Harry takes on a job of ghostwriting rich kids’ high school term papers. How low can you go, right? As Claire, the precociously conniving, world-weary teenager sums it up about Harry:

“You’re already scarred for life. You were a porn editor. You ghostwrite term papers for high school kids. You dress up like your dead mother and write soft-core S&M vampire books and meanwhile you haven’t had a real, human girlfriend in how long?”

Then, a real killer, someone about to be executed for really bad serial killer stuff, contacts Harry with an idea about writing his story – for a weird contractual bargain. Here is where the book takes off. There is a fairly complicated plot involving the serial killer, the victims’ relatives and loved ones, lawyers, backstory, the FBI, forward-story, and most acutely, the victims. Now it’s not so funny anymore. Now, Harry (and his readers, us) feel a constant motion sickness – like the kind where you think you might be getting sick to your stomach soon, so you’re careful how quickly you stand up from your chair.

Harry, the poor guy, is caught on the primetime series Criminal Minds, when he would much prefer, in his heart of hearts, to be writing Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky, he’s not. He can talk “writer” with the best of them – “…in its tropes and myths, genre fiction is close to myths, or what the myths and classics once were…..Reduced to their essence, boiled down, the turns and returns of genre unfold like dreams, like the dreams that we all share and trade with one another and that, clumsy and unrealistic as they are, point us toward the truth.” Harry thinks this, then sits down to write the ending to his current soft porn, sci-fi thriller titled Whither Thou Goest, O Slutship Commander.

Actually, you can picture the real author (David Gordon, who deserves his name out there) coming up with this premise and cracking himself up as he orders his mocha-mocha-lite-no-whip frappuccino in Starbucks. But hey, come on. He followed through, put all the pieces together, wrote the book. He wins. As Harry Bloch says, “Every work of literature is a great victory over oneself and a small act of resistance against the world.”

Don’t resist The Serialist. It’s a hoot. Enjoy.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 16 readers
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster; Original edition (March 9, 2010)
REVIEWER: Maggie Hill
AMAZON PAGE: The Serialist
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another humorous take the writer’s life:

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker


April 5, 2010 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags:  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Humorous, Mystery/Suspense, Satire

One Response

  1. Kirstin - April 5, 2010

    Maggie, that was a quick-witted hoot of a review. Great job! Except for the serial killer part (reading about them really does usually make me very queasy), this sounds like a novel I’d love to dive into. Clever books about the writing process appeal to me so much. Thanks for the heads up.

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