A few years ago I read Patrick Warner’s One Hit Wonders and said: “One Hit Wonders is such a unique reading experience that I wanted more.”
I got what I asked for – another unique reading experience – one that is darkly humorous, bold, challenging, and visceral. This book is not for the casual reader or faint of heart.
The Toronto Star calls it: “Scathing, riotous…Warner’s writing throughout is electric. It’s boisterous, bawdy, turbocharged and entirely entertaining. Apostle John is the best kind of narrator — loudly confident one moment, humble and introspective the next, a man of sage opinions and witty, often heartbreaking anecdotes about [his friends] Budsy and Floss, migration, philosophy, music, and the world at large…. My Camino is an energizing read, a book that asks cheeky and powerful questions about what it means to create (or abstain) in the early 21st Century.”
The plot is not easy to describe. In a nutshell, it’s about three artists (Floss, Budsy and Apostle John) from New York who seem to be given a big break by a well-known guy on the scene (Man in Cream Suit or MiCS). But Floss has some news that she shares with her friends while biking the Camino (backwards), and their trip to Europe becomes one of revenge.
How we didn’t fit in was all we had in common.
The story is narrated by Apostle John. As he tells their story, he offers insights and reflections on the characters and on life in general. He seems to be the most level-headed of the three – maybe not quite as into the art world as the other two. He’s almost as horrified by Budsy’s final performance as the audience: “The previous night was a flickering nightmare, a charnel house, a hag dream where you’re paralized and suffocating and trying to wake up but you can’t.” (Things get graphic, to say the least.)
The art world was a horror. I pictured rooms filled with the living dead, those whose only interest in you was to find out what you thought about them. Whether you would add to or understand their brand. That’s all they really wanted to know.
Some favourite lines:
I was talking about time, how it flows like cream. How if you put it in the mind’s bowl and turn on the mixmaster, it thickens. Experience and time whipped together have the appearance of something made to last.
The effect was like seeing a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow pull out of a hidden driveway when you’ve got one eye on a trash compactor making a U-turn and the other on an aggressive cyclist coming up from behind in the inside lane just as a flock of gulls swoops down on a raccoon feasting curbside on a slice of thin-crust pizza.
Floss felt strange, unreal, a loose tooth in the gum of reality.
I was the Carl Lewis of rabbit skinners.
Another unique read, but in a quieter, less wacky way. (Not that wacky is bad – I love wacky.)
From the London Times: “…this novel billows around you like a queasy dream, its grand scenery and awful characters combining to take us out of the real world and into another, oddly shimmering version of it.”
Henry is a self-involved actor. He spends much of his time thinking about himself, staying in shape, auditioning for bigger and better roles, and taking advantage of his female fans. Kristin is wealthy and divorced and a huge fan of Henry’s. They met at an airport a year and a half ago, and she imagines it’s their destiny to be together.
Henry’s movements on the screen, his expressions, the exhilarating moments of his smiles, his emotions, the dialogue in that beautiful accent that she could speak along with – it was all a timeless connection. She ate and she watched all the precise little moments, her mind fully fastened to them. She could stay like this until the daylight darkened and the neighbours’ cars, returning from work, passed like aeroplanes overhead.
We spend most of our time with Henry as he goes about his everyday life; talking to his agent, going to auditions, eating as little as possible in order to lose weight for his next role, talking to his parents, going out with his friends. But the best thing about the book is the time we spend inside their heads. Both are obsessed with the same person: Henry.
He avoided media. News of a film, trailers for TV shows, interviews with actors could all hurt him with an envy that felt like cramp, like impotent anger at injustice. He knew that it was wrong, that seeing yet another photograph of Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston made no difference to anything. but he was helpless, particularly now that everything hung in the balance,
Anne calls reading about fictional celebrities “a special kind of fun. You get the embarrassing pleasure of reading about fame, riches and popularity without the self-loathing that comes along with a copy of US Weekly.”
The biggest question is, what will come of it? But the journey is every bit as good as the answer.
(All quotations from My Camino and Dream Sequence are taken from Uncorrected Proofs provided to me by Biblioasis.)