However, during my reading of the book I instead became piqued at the amount of misspellings and punctuation errors I found myself reading through...and I can only hope that I read through them correctly and that they did not interfere with the intended message. I am not writing this to be mean or because I am perfect (I make errors, too) -- I am writing this out of frustration, so pardon the digression:
A book at its base level is words and punctuation; if the words and punctuation are incorrect, then the message being conveyed through the words and punctuation could be incorrect as well. It may sound extreme, but in a courtroom all it can take is one error to raise doubt, that is it, and that is the venue for which I was trained to write. Due to this training, when I discover a technical error while reading published books, be it an atomic typo, a missing period at the end of a paragraph, or something that seems equally miniscule, my instinct is to question what I am reading. Sometimes, when there are enough errors, it even causes me to lose focus of the work itself. Because of the errors, I am left wondering: Am I reading what the author intended me to read or am I reading errors?
As odd and anal as all this may sound, I am not alone in recognizing that technical errors can cause reading disruptions, which is why I felt it necessary to address the matter since, after all, this is a review of the book. On a personal note, beyond being annoyed, it was almost insulting to my skills and out-of-work status to think that people were paid money to let errors get printed; good thing I have a sense of humor. If they were not paid money the insult is lessened, but it still does not reflect well. Therefore, when it comes to the publication of technical errors, I would like it noted that this digression is meant to reflect on those who were tasked with correcting errors before publication. Should any writer or publisher want to put my proofing skills to work, feel free to contact me.
To conclude this digression on a positive note, I addressed my nit-picky concerns and inquired as to whether a new edition will be released. I am super pleased to announce that an updated print edition of This Malignant Mirage is being planned for mid-2015. This is not to say that the current edition should be avoided or that it is impossible to read; however, if somebody gets as perturbed as I get at published errors, consider waiting for the updated edition. Now, on with my review.
When it comes to the publisher's description of This Malignant Mirage, one word I completely agree with is 'bizarre.' Not bizarre in a bad way, but in a way that told me I am not the demographic for the book at this point in my life. I think my younger self would have enjoyed it, and that is not to say the book is juvenile. I think the arguments presented would have captured my interest more had I read the book about seventeen years ago, only because that is when I was more intrigued by man-vs-woman arguments compared to now.
Granted, I knew the book had the man-vs-woman theme before reading it, but I did not want to let my personal bias stop me from reading the book. I genuinely wanted to see how the arguments would play out, because even though the arguments may be older than Shakespeare they can still be portrayed in a new way; the same can be said about sex, and I was curious how that would be portrayed, too.
What made the book bizarre to me was the eroticism of man vs. woman physically, which I dig, combined with the views of why man vs. woman, which I did not dig. I went through the Benedick-vs-Beatrice battle years ago, and as much as I kept an open mind while reading the book, in the end the man-vs-woman arguments disinterested me. I understand the arguments, and I have nothing against the arguments whether they are pro-man or pro-woman, because both sides have relatively valid arguments, as represented in all the stories. It is just that I see all the arguments, from both sexes, as equally futile and moot.
A female student using her assets to up her grade? She is no better than the male teacher who makes the most of the situation; and both were unoriginal characters. A high-society bitch with a 'Wild Things' daughter and a cheating husband? She is no better than the male teacher who loses control of his career along with his wife; no original characters in that story either. An overbearing and disappointed pregnant wife? She is no better than the sac-less husband who does not take a stand for himself; both pathetic and unoriginal characters, though I did enjoy their climactic conclusion.
A couple of the stories had different dynamics thrown in, such as a supernatural element and a story that turns the reader into the main character. Those stories were more intriguing, but the intrigue did not overpower the man-vs-woman arguments enough to draw me in to care about the characters, their views, or their orgasms.
When it comes to strength, the characters demonstrated theirs during the erotic entanglements, understandably, but the weakness in the characters made the encounters more sordid than erotic. Had the characters exercised strength in their life situations rather than pitying themselves, and had they owned their lives instead of feeling ashamed of their settled-on lots, and had they done more than rely on spontaneous sex to save them at their final moments of desperation, I may have cared more for them.
Throughout all the stories, neither gender was proven more correct than the other, which tells me that both sexes are equally right...and equally wrong. There, now everyone wins, debate over. I hereby rule everyone equally mortal fools and that man-vs-woman is much ado about nothing, and here is why I think so: No matter the difference in views between man and woman, in the end man gets woman and woman gets man (heterosexually speaking), and they both get what they want and need from the other (sex!); thus, everyone wins once pride is overcome with genital goo...and everyone finally shuts up about who is right during a peaceful post-coital sleep. Seriously, what is more important: arguing about being right or fucking? Exactly. That is why the debate is moot to me -- fucking beats arguing. Case closed.
While the combination of themes left my gray matter a little dry, I do appreciate the bizarrity of the book's literary concepts because it was something new and different to read. Sometimes, though, it was a bit too literary. I ended up doing word counts on a few sentences, only because I got lost figuring out what was being described. When I saw word counts at over 100 words in a sentence I knew why I got lost -- literary overload. Between the themes, the word density and the language, I did not know whether I was supposed to be deciphering descriptions, analyzing argument, or getting gooey. I totally appreciate that the book is an exploration into erudite eroticism, but the end result did not work for me. More smut, less lit, please.
As well, I did not find anything erotic about some of the word choices, namely 'crotch,' 'cunt,' and 'lube.' I do not know if those words were intended for eroticism, if they were meant to portray the degradation of women and the situations, or if they meant nothing at all but were just used for shits and giggles, because not everything has to mean something.
'Crotch,' for whatever reason, does not work for me as an erotic word; maybe because the word 'rot' is contained in a word that simultaneously alludes to an erogenous zone. I don't know, but the one-syllable sound of 'crotch' makes me want to gag. As for the word 'cunt,' it has become overused slander against both sexes, maybe because 'bitch' is not shocking enough anymore; so it conveys slander before eroticism to me. And when it comes to the word 'lube,' that is a sterile, non-offensive term salespeople use in adult shops to sell Astroglide as an add-on; it also makes me think I am in a mechanic's garage. Again, I do not know if these rare word choices were for any particular reason, but they did not jive with me.
Still, in spite of my personal caveats towards This Malignant Mirage, none of this is to say that the book should be avoided. I recognize that I would have enjoyed this book at another time in my life, so I suspect others may enjoy it too. That is why I totally encourage people to read the book in order to draw their own conclusions, because "No two persons ever read the same book." Caveat lector.
Thank you for reading.
Please refer to the first paragraph for links to the book This Malignant Mirage via the publisher, Andy Nowicki's blog and more.
I Spy a Typo:
Today's Atomic Typo
Caught on Camera: Revealing the Truth
Typos from The Mysterious Affair at Styles :