HEAT AND THE HOT EARTH, THE: $6, 4 ¼” x 5 ½”, 61 pgs.

Mar 23, 2012

Twenty pages of a letter from one main character to a girl he’s never met, telling her in vivid detail about a dream he had about her and his resultant love for her. Teenagers traipsing around just south of the border, getting drunk, talking about literature and dreams. An eleven-page Tumblr entry about dreams. And so on. I reviewed another novella by this guy last issue, and I will again level the same charges, except I now have more evidence to draw upon, more careless fingerprints to hold up. Here, Gnade again lifts as much as his arms can carry out of the estate of Roberto Bolaño and dresses up his fantastically boring teenage characters with the stolen goods. The problem with imitating a master is that when you inevitably fall short, your cloying attempts become illuminated—whatever greatness you’ve made adequate pencil rubbings of will sharply contrast with your messy, frantic scribbling surrounding it. It’s insulting to the hero you’re attempting to worship with the sincerest form, acting like the mastery you seek is as simple, as easy, as just absorbing it through osmosis, reading it and regurgitating. So, obviously, I have problems with where this work is coming from. But that’s not all—this puffed-up, poetic, and tragic prose (did I mention he’s ripping off Bolaño unsuccessfully?) extends to three-quarters of the book, the three-quarters dealing with male characters. Tragic, poetic, puffed-up male characters. The other fourth of this book is the only female character, who, besides being weirdly objectified in the first chapter—both sexually and in a sort of “you are the one for me, baby, even though we don’t know each other” way especially common amongst pathetic, egotistical male writers—narrates her entire chapter by complaining on Tumblr. In the hands of a better writer, maybe this would make her seem markedly more two-dimensional and unconvincing as a character than the boys who are clearly favored here, but since all sixty-one pages only deal with flimsy cardboard cut-outs instead of real, breathing, shitting human beings, you kind of just have to use your imagination and draw another grim conclusion about this novella. –Dave Brainwreck (adamgnade.com)

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