of Memorial, by Bryan Washington,
which featured in an edition of BBC World Service's Bookclub:
The British Sunday Times described this bleak book as 'tender, wistful and profound'. I found it shallow and brutal. The first (totally banal and stupid) of three epigraphs warns the reader: "Everybody, everywhere, is always talking about the same shitty thing."
This book is "a shitty thing". The fæcal word occurs several times on almost every page, which gets a bit trying. The book implies that (half-)educated queer Americans say 'shit' and 'fuck' (not to mention 'motherfucker') all the time. If this is the case, it tells us all we need to know about the American education system.
There is no difference in tone or voice between the two main characters. They are in a totally mechanistic relationship, emotionally anæsthetised and solipsistic. Their homosexuality is anti-sensual and of the wham-bam penetrative kind, which does no service to queerness – though, since Gay Liberation, it certainly appears to have become more brutal.
I found it both depressing and trivial, and something of a slur against queer men; many of us are holosensual rather than brusquely sodomitic.
Mr Washington should read some Jodi Picoult to learn how to write well and impart empathy into his narrative and his characters, rather than trying pathetically to emulate the dehydrated William Burroughs
I am not surprised that I found this book in a 'Remaindered'. pile of its own at quarter-price. I am much less surprised that it is an "American Best-seller", some of which seem to be churned out of some Writers' Factory (maybe in China!).