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Brain: The Man Who Wrote the Book That Changed the World: A Satire Kindle Edition
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The story is an all-too-commonplace contemporary tale of unrewarded talent. Ever since his graduation, when he triumphantly won a minor literary award, Daniel Waterstone has pursued his self-appointed destiny of joining the great classic novelists by penning a definitive work which will herald a new renaissance in American literature. Ten years on, his life is narrow and Spartan, he has no friends, practically no family (his mother, an emotionally cold woman, lives far away) and his only interactions are with his greedy literary agent and a sweet and wise eighty-three year old librarian. Women are a mystery to Daniel and one for which he seems to have no time or inclination ... until he meets Clare, a beautiful musician. But Daniel's initial enthusiasm is sadly dampened when she turns out to be utterly bonkers.
Daniel has published two novels, both well received by critics, but ignored by the buying public. When his agent drops the bombshell that his publishers have rejected his latest masterpiece and want their advance back, Daniel hits rock bottom. In a desperate mental state, literally starving and unable to pay for his rent or utilities, he starts writing a bitter, over-the-top satire, lampooning the latest best-selling self-help guides. What happens next is a whirlwind of craziness and greed-fuelled nonsense which, eerily, mimics real life.
Daniel is a quirky, improbable hero. At first, there is nothing about him to like; he is vain, self-centred and arrogant, condescendingly believing himself superior to the masses. But, as the story unfolds, and Daniel's life quietly unravels, we discover a core of understated decency and uncomplaining honesty that endears him to us and makes us root for him. The supporting characters are economically but effectively portrayed. There are some cartoonish villains and a couple of likeable, supportive souls, but Daniel carries the whole book on his resigned shoulders. His moral dilemma is clearly defined, and I enjoyed the scathing, clear-sighted depiction of the routine exploitation of talent by certain members of the publishing industry. The narrative is well paced, always lively but gathering speed and momentum in concert with the increasingly surreal craziness of the developments. A clever, often hilarious, and very honest book that should appeal to a large segment of the reading public, and one that I would be happy to read again.
The romp (in the Merriam Webster sense of the word) begins with personna Daniel Waterstone, "the recipient of the prestigious Marcus and Imelda Rogerspoon award for the student showing the brightest promise for a future literary career." Then, instead of having the decorum to sit down and shut up, Daniel demonstrates his oratory acumen to tell the audience that:
"We are living in dangerous times," he then said, pausing, for dramatic effect. "Having progressed through the age of reason and enlightenment, civilization is now poised to enter the age of insanity. I tell you, in no uncertain terms that what we are currently witnessing, at least here, in the West, is the decline of culture itself."
Aside from a few typographical errors (which may be intentional for all we know), this book successfully entertains in all environs from a noisy city bus to the quiet contemplation of a reading room.
We were reminded of Charlotte Bronte "Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonised as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love."
Should you, Gentle Reader, have the misfortune to know well a genuine novelist, then you will instantly recognize the wellspring of angst penned by Daniel Waterstone.
"Do I write what the market wants? Do I write something... that will sell? What is the market buying these days?" he asked, desperation making him look unattractive and pathetic. [as his avaricious and duplicitous agent Suzanne roars off in her late-model convertible, leaving Daniel in the dust]
Waterstone has by now authored several novels of quality, containing truth, light and beauty which have been soundly and roundly rejected by publishers. Bereft of electricity and phone, Daniel muses about Eric Blair a/k/a George Orwell who could not sell "animal stories" to his publisher; Samuel Clemens, Charles Dodgson, Currer Bell and others.
'"Besides, he didn't want to pimp out his genuine talents and become a hack, just to sell books and become "popular." '
So, what is a serious novelist to do?
Davis tells us: "Having the least bit of stress in his life had a tendency to throw off his sleeping patterns and prevent his body and mind from achieving that basic health requirement of all humans: deep, restorative sleep."
The answer comes to Daniel: re-read George Orwell, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Dickens, Poe, Laurence Stern, Cervantes, Voltaire, Geoffrey Chaucer.
Gradually he undergoes metamorphosis and becomes alter ego "Charles Spectrum." (or was it Dermot Davis?) And then the fun begins.
Waterstone: "Some would say that the true use of satire is to provoke controversy, to stir up the populace from their torpid slumber and sound a wake-up call, challenging the status quo."
Waterstone was completely out of touch with "the market" and that ignorance extended to music: "content to listen to his favorite composers, varying his choice dependent upon his mood: Mozart, Haydn or perhaps Sibelius when he was feeling cheerful; Mahler, Bach, Shostakovich or quite likely Rachmaninoff when he was feeling sad. As far back as he could remember he had always harbored a deep-seated feeling - almost a certainty - that he was born into the wrong age."
(Parenthetically, we are surprised that Waterstone did not listen to Schumann, Mahler, Brahms and Wagner "when he was feeling cheerful.")
Waterstone again: "It's not like I could easily get a job or something. All I've done for the past ten years is write literary novels... a very slim resume, you must agree." "Do you want to get a job?" "Of course not. I'm a writer. I want to write."
So, as Charles Spectrum he sets out to write the ultimate "self-help" send-up because as Mavis the librarian observes "There are really only three genres that everyone wants to read and then everything else is a subset or a combination, thereof...."
Unable to sleep, malnourished, suffering from "exceedingly high stress levels" Specturm produces a monster best-seller.
This book caused this reviewer's spirit to leave the body; she can levitate; she can channel Suzanne "listening to creative types" and she can fix her toaster by the laying on of hands. Waterstone/Spectrum/Davis (almost predictably Irish) has produced a sly and very funny look at the world of authors, agents, publishing, tabloid journalism and the modern reading public.
Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon. (Because authors sometimes have difficulty following instructions and solicit reviews from two different KBR reviewers, this one cannot be entered by KBR.)
This book is a wonderful satire on modern publishing, and a clever exploration of degrees of sanity.
Although the early pages don't seem to have the inventiveness of the rest of the book, there are still some gems to be found. I love the awkward restaurant scene when Daniel dines with his agent, Suzanne, which is reminiscent of one of my favourite scenes in Orwell's "Keep the Aspidistra Flying". Daniel's first contact with his potential love interest, Clare, and his relationship with elderly librarian, Mavis, are both delightful.
Once Daniel's book takes off, so does this one. It soars with a glorious irreverence into the realms of absurdity, becoming increasingly wild as his life spirals out of control. There are many bizarre scenes to tickle the funny bone, and some stand-out laugh-out-loud ones, too. My absolute favourite is Daniel's hilarious first visit to his agent's office after his book has been published. I won't spoil it by explaining it - I just urge you to read it!
My son was so intrigued by a book that made his mother laugh out loud, that he read it - in one sitting. His verdict: "It's entertaining." Praise indeed from a teenager. I think any author who can entertain a middle-aged woman and an adolescent boy has got to be getting it right.
I'd like to thank the author for sending me a review copy of this book.
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Davis is a writer with something to say which he does in an entertaining and engaging way.Read more
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