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A Review of EyeLeash/s a blog novel
Jess C Scott's novel EyeLeash/a blog novel (260 pages) chronicles the relationship between 17-year-old Jade Ashton and a young man named Novan over a period of nine months, a portentous time frame and no doubt intentional. Scott is a clever audacious writer, and though EyeLash might first appear as a typical adolescent blog, bloated with self-importance, the novel soon reveals a compelling story, complex characters and wit to spare. Its subtitle "a blog novel" is both accurate and misleading. Though it shares many characteristics of blogs (150 million of them at last count), the "blog" that Jade creates is not meant to communicate. Jade writes, "Blogging awful poetry, daily events nobody really cares about, or ceaselessly complaining/rambling on the same old things, is stupid. Now I blog too, but this is a private one. Unsearchable on Google, and password-enabled. So it's just me. I can be as boring and mundane as I like, talk to myself if everyone online has the (Away) or (Busy) sign on, and not worry about stepping on anybody's toes. Let's see what I'll record here over this year." In effect, the blog functions as setting, familiarizing the reader not with street names or land formations, but URLs, IM formats and the abbreviated lingua franca of online chatting. If you're looking for naturalistic description you won't find it here.
Blog trappings aside, EyeLeash is a descendent of the epistolary novel, popularized in the 18th Century by Samuel Richardson's novels Pamela and Clarissa, with recent examples being Beverly Cleary's Dear Dr. Henshaw and Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Epistolary novels contain letters (correspondence), but also journal/diary entries, snippets of written documents from other sources, dialogue, etc. Scott makes good use of all these forms (exchanging e-mails or even lines of single lines of dialogue in IM is not congruent to snail mail but comparable) to reflect Jade's life and her problems. At the heart of the story is Jade's relationship with Novan, a boy she has known all her life and even dated a few years back. Novan has matured physically (all sources report the dude as HOT), become a musician/artist and is avidly pursuing his career. Jade is trying to come to terms with how she feels about Novan and how he feels about her, especially about her body, a concern that provokes much self-examination, physically and psychologically. Will this budding tentative romance develop? Will they have sex? Forces are at work to disrupt the relationship. All of Jade's friends are sexual sophisticates. Sexual opportunity, whether straight, gay, bi or through virtual reality is readily available (sex falls like the gentle rain from heaven sent). Miraculously, Jade is a virgin (an echo of American Beauty), which within her set seems at best quaint and at worst decadent, an affront to the zeitgeist. Jade's adventures in self-exploration, which take up much space, would make for an X version of Home Alone. If Eyeleash is starting to sound like Terry Southern's novel Candy, it isn't. Scott manages to make all of this less prurient than a prudent send-up of the top ten staples of women's magazines. Jade is supremely aware of the superficiality of her concerns. This is what separates Jade from her breathless friends and provides the humor. One example: In a discussion with a friend about an engaging sexual position, Jade is lead to believe that her friend had actually read the Kama Sutra, and duly impressed at her friend's ambitious reading, but her friend, SeXy nAuGhTy BiTcHy Me, has gleaned the info from an article in a recent 100 % Woman magazine.
Jade's numerous conversations with Novan, which include plans to exchange nude photographs and discussions about BD/DS/SM (if you're drawing a blank, read the book) are an effort to humanize our contemporary obsession with perfect bodies and perfect sex, a dehumanization ably abetted by the Web. As Jade moves toward her decision regarding Novan (can she no longer trust the boy that she traded coded messages with in grade school?), Scott captures with admirable authenticity the struggle of a young adult to shed the ephemeral for the permanency of an authentic relationship. Although the raw language is a problem, Eyeleash is a love story that will appeal to intelligent young adults and others that were.--Alex Austin