- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Insomniac Press; 1st Edition edition (April 1 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1897178794
- ISBN-13: 978-1897178799
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.3 x 21 cm
- Shipping Weight: 181 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,945,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Selected Blackouts Paperback – Apr 1 2009
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Quill & Quire
One of the greatest illusory effects in literature was achieved by Ernest Hemingway, who likened his writing to the dignified movement of an iceberg, the critical mass of which remains concealed from sight. His prose was so pared down that what had been left out still seemed somehow present, part of the effect. The illusion lies in how easy it seems. Hemingway’s approach has been extraordinarily seductive for generations of writers, so in a way it’s hard to fault Montreal author John Goldbach for falling under its spell in his debut collection of short fiction, Selected Blackouts. The blackouts in the title are mainly self-induced, with alcohol featuring prominently in almost all of the stories. The characters are, for the most part, young slackers who attend parties, drink, do drugs, and try to hook up. They seem to be going through life without a great deal of purpose and don’t care very much for each other or for themselves. The homage to Hemingway is in the book’s style, which is deliberately, almost painstakingly, flat. The narrative doesn’t so much progress as extend through matter-of-fact statements about what is happening, which is rarely anything special. The language does not employ any rhetorical flourishes, and the dialogue in particular tends to repeat simple, common words like “good” and “nice” with distressing frequency. Pulling off this kind of writing is not easy, and here it doesn’t work. There’s never any indication that more is going on than meets the eye. And the laconic dialogue, both in terms of rhythm and vocabulary, often seems unnatural. It is in the few experimental pieces that the book is most successful. In the final story, a single-paragraph account of a woman watching a wedding show on television, there is a subtle feeling of inner drift, and in the paranoid interior monologue “How Much Do They Know?” the narrative voice has a manic energy that is absent in the rest of the collection. Among selected blackouts, these stories provide flashes of light.
Selected Blackouts illuminates the alternating currents of youthful highs and lows fueled by nicotine and booze and evasive sensuality with occasional sudden sex and attempts to quit all the delightful vices, but vices remain way too delightful. This is sort of Salinger updated, fast-forwarded a few years, and intoxicated, with joyful results. -- Josip Novakovich, author of April Fool's Day and InfidelitiesSee all Product description
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"Selected Blackouts is a remarkable first book full of keenly observed characters and delightful comic invention. ... Goldbach's touch is light and his narrative momentum is fierce."
Globe and Mail
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
"Goldbach's touch is light and his narrative momentum is fierce. His prose and his well-constructed plots make his short stories into mini-novels, full of rich character development and the heart-searing pity that lies at the root of the best comedy."
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
"Goldbach nails it. 'Conversation at 4 a.m.' and 'Wedding' are stunning little masterpieces."
The prose is a disgrace and the stories have no structure or depth.
The trite smugness of the sub par yet self satisfied author oozes from every word.
Just awful, literally the worst thing I've ever read.