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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Writer's Life 8/10 - Ratio

Recently, an acquaintance from my days in the commodities universe asked my opinion on the opening chapter of an autobio he's writing about his dysfunctional family and bi-polar disorder. In his 50's, it's a first attempt at a book. When I think back to my early years trying to learn the craft of writing, I recall how it seemed I had a million miles to go before I reached competency. I was interested in Matt's story. The only thing I really knew about him was that people liked and respected him. He traded gold futures. I remember another broker remarking, after Matt was absent for a long period: "He really adds a lot to this ring." I enjoyed the four-page excerpt, despite its flaws. Before I commented, I asked how detailed he wanted me to be. I know how precious a writer's words are and how fragile confidence can be. His subject is worthy. It merely needs polish. Fortunately, he was not embittered by my critique. In fact, he thanked me, which was a huge relief. So where am I going with this? I read a book about every two weeks and write about each in this blog. I don't know that I've ever rated one less than 2.5 on a scale of five. Again, I know how much the work means to an author. I know each, whether simply writing to entertain or to plumb universal truths, is sincere, so I will not bash. Yesterday I finished a novel I hated. I almost abandoned it several times, so sordid is it. Never Mind the Pollocks by Neal Pollack, who has a sterling reputation, is unrelenting in its depiction of the rebel lifestyle. About the only thing I liked about it, although the prose and dialogue are first rate, is the title, a clever take-off on the Sex Pistols lone album. NMTP is the story of dueling rock critics, one of whom bears the same name as the author, the other the narrator of the novel, which spans 1952-1991. Just about every important personage in the history of rock n roll makes an appearance. Pollack pulls no punches. The back blurb states: "Pollack has managed to perfectly echo the style of over-educated blowhards in order to deflate some of rock's most sacred egos." After reading the novel, if its portraits are actually more than satirical. I'm glad I've never spent a minute with anyone in the field, even though I love a lot of the music the artists created. Much of the narrative has to do with what constitutes genuine rock n roll. Throughout, an old blues singer, Clambone, pops up to deliver wisdom and, in the final chapter, dispenses "The Message": "Blind, unfocused rage is the emotional core of all great art. And once you've experienced it, you can make great rock n roll." Pollack has a degree from Northwestern and a background in journalism and improv. Perhaps the book, despite the crudeness, is simply geared to people smarter than me. He has written ten books, two non-fiction. 26 users at Amazon have rated Never Mind the Pollacks, forging to a consensus of 3.7 of five. I rate it two. To think I worried that my own rock n roll novel, Rising Star, might have been too over the top. Its ratio of sordid to the desire to do good is roughly 50-50.  That of Never Mind the Pollacks seems to be 95-5.

According to today's NY Post, 937 people died from a drug overdose in NYC in 2015, up from 800 the previous year. The increase, in part, is attributed to Fentanyl, which is described as more potent than morphine.

Also in the Post: Almost 13,000 dead people drew $2.3 million from Medicaid in the last fiscal year. Who's running the department -- Haley Joel Osment?

I had no luck selling books on the street today.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

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