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Uneven stories about a Bosnia author living in Chicago, yet again.
on 14 August 2009
Written at the same time as his novel, The Lazarus Project, they both share the same defects.
He's undoubtedly a gifted writer...But... He needs to write about something that doesn't involve a thinly disguised character who is a Bosnian author living in Chicago. He needs to stretch his abilities beyond recounting anecdotes from his life, piling them up to make a story of details. He obviously having a love affair with the English language, creating some beautiful prose. The next sentence will be convoluted and sounding like the author swallowed a thesaurus and vomited up on the page. It's an uneven collection of a youthful author still finding his feet; he will write some brilliant work, but this isn't it yet. It's seems like gifted juvenilia. It treads such similar ground to his previous work, I can imagine a bookseller remarking them as a trilogy. I loved his first book "The Question of Bruno" and feeling disappointed by The Lazarus Project. A large problem, more annoying in The Lazarus Project, is the 'metafiction' aspect. It's all so precious, pretentious and mostly puerile. Hemon seems to be indulging himself too much in writing and it comes across as being a show-off. I felt like I was being forced to acknowledge how clever his writing was, an air of smugness whilst he was still staying within his comfort zone.
One author he began to remind me off, was B.S. Johnson. They share familiar flaws of being too self-regarding, both limited by only being able to use anecdotes from their own life. For B.S. Johnson it became a limiting mantra that everything had to come from his life, that it had to be based on autobiography. Both writers can come across as selfish bores, writing for themselves and expecting everyone to acclaim them as geniuses. I worry that Hemon will paddle in the similar shallow pool of self-regard that eventually trapped B.S. Johnson. Jonhson was a genius, but crippled by flaws, he just couldn't escape from himself when writing; and this made him and his work dull and miserable. Saying all that, I've read most of Johnsons work and will probably read all of Hemons too. Despite all the frustration and disappointment it causes, it's worth the effort for moments of genius that can't be denied... And Hemon still has a long career ahead of him and he has the ability to write a masterpiece. Maybe: "The Lazarus Project" was awful.