£2.99 from Amazon Kindle store
The work in question is entitled ‘A Fucked Up Life In Books’ by Anonymous. The author is female, and (I believe) works in London as something to do with publishing. She is on Twitter under the name @bookcunt . She is one of those people who uses expletives in just about every paragraph.
It is divided into three parts: Childhood and school, Teenage years and university, and A proper grown-up. I counted a total of 56 chapters. Each chapter is about 3 or 4 pages (or screens, if you want to split hairs, given that it is an e-book).
I am not going to insult the reader’s intelligence by trying to pretend that I agreed to review this work without an ulterior motive. @bookcunt has five thousand Twitter followers and a blog (http://www.bookcunt.blogspot.co.uk/) and so I am writing this in the hope of a reciprocal review of my e-story, Pick-up Technique, which I think @bookcunt would enjoy. I am not as established in the blogosphere as she is, but then again, my e-story costs less than a third the price of hers.
Nearly every chapter is named after the book that the author was reading at the time the incident took place. Occasionally, the subject matter or the author’s reaction to the book comes into the narrative, but usually it doesn’t. One of the chapters is about a book she was going to read but, I am very glad to say, didn’t. The book selection is certainly varied.
The book reads more like a diary than what I would call a piece of life-writing. The main difficulty with life-writing is to create a coherent story out of the vicissitudes of everyday existence, and the usual way to do that is either to make a few things up, to make it more interesting, or to pick and pick away at what actually happened until you have pulled out just the main thread. Hence, most writers I know consider that writing from life is virtually the same as writing complete fiction in the sense that the story you end up with is still an artificial creation.
The author of AFULIB manages to create a readable work mainly by keeping each chapter very short. Viewed in comparison to the standard rules of creative writing, the narrative voice has some basic technical shortcomings. It is partial, vituperative, self-involved, colloquial, and cannot stop swearing. But it has a style of its own, and I managed to read the whole book in three, closely-following sittings. Several reviewers on Amazon have commented on a number of typos, but these are trivial. The thing that has the potential to drive you mad about this book is the narrative voice. If you can only read highly-polished, detached prose, then this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you respond to human warmth and feeling, if you are the kind of person who enjoys contemporary stand-up comedy and relates to another person’s frustrations, then you will find this readable, maybe even unputdownable. This is a work from the school of what one of the characters in Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’ referred to as “one fucking thing after another”.
Most of the chapters end with some kind of conclusion, in the form of an adage or homily. Most of these tend to be negative or misanthropic. I enjoyed reading them, not because of what they themselves contain, but because of what they say about the author. It is mostly the chapter endings which reveal the character of the author, and this revelation is the main thing I got out of reading the book. To paraphrase ‘The History Boys’ again, sometimes, when you read, you can feel a hand reaching out to you. This hand would probably want to put a latex glove on before reaching out to any-one who had not just washed their hands with carbolic, but the principle nevertheless applies.