Andrew Davidson’s Debut Novel, The Gargoyle, is Worth Every Penny of the 1.25 Million He Was Advanced

Now, personally, I have no idea how one gets awarded 1.25 million dollars as an advance on a first book, but when people start bidding, who knows what crazy things can happen. Then again, maybe it’s not so crazy. The book is spectacular. The writing is fresh and interesting, the style engaging and seductive, and the humor edgy and risque. You don’t want to put it down but you’re not annoyingly attached like a crappy Dan Brown novel.

In short, it’s a great read.

One thing I really loved about it was the endless religious imagery and integration of religious concepts, all discussed by the main character, who was, as luck would have it, an atheist. Now, talking about symbolism abstractly in regards to a book you may not have read really seems silly, but I don’t want to ruin anything for you or give any plot spoilers.

I will say, however, that you will be doing yourself a service if you constantly bear the book’s title, The Gargoyle, in mind. It holds beautifully throughout the entire novel.

And the history! Multiple periods, personal characters, a variety of places. You learn so much and from a guy who’s done his homework, too. Great research went into this book, and the author does a wonderful job of integrating and crafting the material, bringing us through times and places beyond our own but that become so very close through the telling of his story.

As you’ll see, Dante’s Inferno has a prominent place in The Gargoyle and as it’s been sitting next to me on my desk for months now, I suppose it’s finally time and only fair that I pick it up. I’ve always wanted to and this provided sufficient impetus.

Have you read The Gargoyle? What’d you think? Will you read Davidson’s next book? Was this one worth the advance he got? Get your own copy of The Gargoyle.

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Irvine Welsh’s Glue, Though Long, is a Fascinating Character Piece

This was a crazy long book – nearly 500 pages. Now, 500 pages is often manageable, no problem, but these 500 pages are all written in varying Scottish accents. It’s an incredible feat, I think, that Welsh can write like this so accurately and consistently, but good lord can it be taxing to read. Certainly it makes the reader feel like he’s more a part of the story and makes the entire situation more tangible but that’s often at the expense of getting through the book in a reasonable amount of time.

I’ve read a lot of Irvine Welsh books, but this is the only one I ever started 5 times over the course of as many years. This last time, however, I was determined to push through the beginning and make it into the meat. And it was worth it.

The book is about 4 friends, and in each of four decades, the 70s when they are about 6, 80s when they’re in their teens, and the 90s when they’re in their mid-20s, we get a chapter from the perspective of each of these four friends. The fourth section, in 2000, is written differently, introducing new characters and bringing it all back around in a way I never expected. It’s a fascinating way to write a book, and I really enjoyed reading it once I understood what was happening and everything fell into a rhythm.

It’s hard, for a long time, to see the plot of this book. Honestly, I don’t know that the plot really registered with me until the end. Mostly, I considered it to be a character piece that told the tale of the lives of these four friends, their trials and travails growing up lower-class in Edinburgh. By the end, though, you realize that there was a story going on underneath, even if it wasn’t presented in standard plot, rising action, climax, falling action fashion.

All in all, it was very well done, and like I said, though long, quite good. If you’ve never read any Welsh I’d recommend starting elsewhere (classic Trainspotting perhaps?) and if you love his stuff then I’d give this one a ride and see if you can’t get your hole.

Have you read it? What’d you think? Wanna get your own copy of Glue? What’s your favorite Irvine Welsh book?

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Topical Tuesday: Should You Be Able to Return Bad Books as Faulty Merchandise?

What!? I had no idea that this was even a question in the minds of people who read. It was recently brought to my attention by my good friend and fellow author, Chandler (whose thoughts on this matter I’m sure will be better than mine and available on her blog). Apparently, some book in a “Twilight” series wasn’t what people were hoping for and a lot of them are trying to return it and get their money back.

Whoa.

Buying books is like going to Vegas: it’s a gamble and if you don’t like the results, try getting a hooker. Some books are bad. Dare I say, more are bad than good, but the moment you buy it and put the words into your head, you’ve gotten what you paid for: those words, no matter your opinion of them.

I believe that the problem in this Twilight case was that people loved the first books in the series and were unsatisfied by the most recent one. You know what? Deal with it. The author obviously did a good enough job to convince you to get this one so hat’s off. We can’t win them all.

Should you get your money back for a bad movie? I wish! What if it was the fault of one actor? Should I always get my money back when I see Ben Affleck movies? NO! I should deal with it because I took the gamble. Movies and books can suck. That’s the way of the world: filled with opinions.

If you’re worried a book won’t be good or if you think you should have the right to read without paying then start using the library more often. That’s what the system is for.

Returning books because they’re bad….ridiculous.

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Have you ever returned a bad book? What’s the worst book you ever read? What did you do when you were finished reading it?

For another Topical Tuesday topic, click HERE. To read about how Ben Affleck sucks and ruins movies I should get my money back for, click HERE.

And don’t forget to check out Chandler’s blog for her thoughts on this matter HERE.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Rant is Classicly Twisted and Testimony to a Fascinating Mind

Wow this was a great book. I am a huge Chuck Palahniuk fan. I’ve read most of what he’s written, and I really liked it all. Awhile back I stopped reading a lot of Palahniuk, though, because the stories – though always cool and twisted – had a similar trajectory. You know, the one with the crazy twist towards the end. I just got tired of the big twist we were all waiting for.

But Rant is not like that at all. Though there are a million fascinating surprises and weird as hell things going on towards the end as your understanding of his crazy ideas and terms start coming together and you realize that you’re reading about something other than you imagined, there’s no big twist – just dozens of “oh,” and “ah” moments that make for a fun and exciting read.

The other thing that made it different from Palahniuk’s other books is the way it was told: as an oral biography. The first page explains this style, but basically, you’re reading a few paragraphs at a time from dozens of different people whose tales interweave and ultimately tell the story of one person – a person who is dead before this telling begins. It’s a fascinating way to learn about characters and to hear a story – and you are hearing the story.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chuck Palahniuk once and some of the stories he told me were ones that I could detect snippets of in this book. That was really cool. Here’s a photo (taken 6 years ago so cut me some slack) of me with Chuck Palahniuk.

P.S. I'm not the Asian kid

P.S. I'm not the Asian kid

Have you read Rant? What did you think? What is your favorite Palahniuk book?

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An Announcement About The Zen of South Park’s Revamping and Restructuring

Dear Loyal Reader,

I want to let you know that The Zen of South Park blog will be changing from today forward. Don’t worry – I’m not going anywhere so there’s no need to cry. I am, however, going to be changing what I do on a couple of days. I’ll explain first and then post the schedule.

From now on Mondays will no longer be days for interviews (though when I have them I’ll just post them when they seem appropriate). Monday will be Fun with the Bible day. This may mean different things on different days but basically, I’m going to pick ideas, themes, scenes or passages from the Bible – both the Old and New Testaments (probably on a rotating basis) – and discuss them in ways that hopefully you haven’t thought about before. Whether religious or secular, already familiar with the Bible or not, Fun with the Bible Mondays are for everyone with any interest in learning a little and being inspired about the Bible’s functionality even in the twenty-first century.

Wednesdays will be Quran days. That’s right – we’re going to read the Quran…together! We will begin with the Prologue today and then every week we will read only 100 verses (about 10-15 minutes, don’t worry). I will say my piece about them and then I invite you to respond and say what you thought. This will be an open discussion, and so long as everyone is respectful, I think it will go very well.

The Quran is the holy book of the Muslim religion and should therefore be treated with a great deal of respect. Though we will be reading it with a critical eye like we would any other text, I will not be approving any callously disrespectful or prejudice comments. That said, I think it’s very important for everyone to read the holy books of other religions because it helps us understand other people better, and with the current state of world affairs, I think that reading the Quran is of special importance. I hope you’ll join me on this sure to be fascinating day to read and think about the Quran. Don’t forget to go get yourself a copy or click HERE for multiple translations to read online (click HERE to read the first Quran post)!

The final change in our schedule will be Sundays, which from now on will be Zen days. As The Zen of South Park blog, I thought it was time to incorporate a little Zen into our lives. I will begin by reading very short essays by the Zen master, Dogen, from his Shobogenzo, and providing a few comments on them. When I run out of these Zen essays I will start writing about sayings of Buddha from the Dhammapada and then move onto other texts from Eastern religions.

On all three of these days (Monday, Wednesday and Sunday) I will announce each week what I will be reading the next week so that you can keep up and prepare it yourself if you want to be ready to comment or participate. Jump in at any time or stage.

As for Topical Tuesdays, Around the World Pic of the Day, Movie/Book Review Day and Religion in the News day, all of those will stay as they are. Moreover, I will continue discussing the South Park episodes that are being aired daily, making the schedule:

Sunday: Zen Topics
Monday: Fun with the Bible
Tuesday: Topical Tuesdays – join me and my good friend and fellow author Chandler Craig (chandlermariecraig.wordpress.com) to see our different takes on the topic of the day.
Wednesday: Quran Read-a-Long
Thursday: Around the World – I will post a photo of me at religious sites around the world with a discussion about the location’s significance
Friday: Movie/Book Review Day
Saturday: Religion in the News

To see an index of my blog articles by subject matter and theme, click HERE.

I hope you enjoy the blog’s new structure and stick with us as we begin exploring some of these new subjects.

Best Regards,

Jay