Two self-published authors show the potential and
pitfalls of the form with satirical fictions
never know what you’ll really get with self-published works. Often,
their author/publishers have no one to determine quality or help hone
something that may still be too raw or unfinished. This circumstance can
be seen in two recent comedic or satiric novels that have “crossed the
transom” here at Jester: “A Faithful Proposal” by Alan Beck, and
“Hideous Exuberance” by Stephen C. Bird.
“Proposal” aspires to the heights of Vonnegut. It’s a bit clumsy
getting there at times but has its moments. Populated with characters
named overly obviously for their traits (such as tycoon Brooks McRump
and entertainment reporter Suzie Starstruck), Beck’s book sets up a
society in which the insurance industry is poised to take over organized
religions, merging bits of the major ones together in a grab for more
power and influence.
Still, at times, Beck hits his targets dead-on, with characters like
the self-aggrandizing Billy Graham-like reverend. Other characters with
a role in the mad societal changes in Beck’s future version of the U.S.
are caught up in the ride that also takes a detour through a thoroughly
broken health care system. Beck’s satire of organized religion ends up
working a little better than his take on health care.
All in all, “A Faithful Proposal” is a flawed work, but one that
starts with a certain solid basis for a satirical novel. Beck definitely
could have benefited from the collaboration of a publisher.
“Hideous Exuberance,” on the other hand, has little to recommend,
it’s sad to say. Bird introduces new characters in nearly every chapter,
but they quickly blend together in an unending stream of consciousness
prose. It’s unclear whether it’s intentional, but the dialogue from
these characters, and even some of the narration, is written in an
ungrammatical patois that could be taken by some as denigrating the
types of downtrodden people Bird is portraying.
On top of that, the action, such as it is, is an unceasing stream of
scatological and sexual acts that reads as though Bird is compulsive in
how he has to keep describing more and more of these acts, obliterating
any chance at a coherent story even as he does so.
Bird may be aiming for some kind of artistic statement with the style
of his writing and the portrayal of his characters, but it’s one that is
executed so poorly that it ends up being incoherent.
Largely, most reviews on this site, if not positive and glowing, are
at least constructive. “Hideous Exuberance” is one of the rare times
where it’s been evident that the work in question is out-and-out awful,
and it’s impossible to find any redeeming artistic merit or even
potential at all in it. That’s the hazard of vanity publishing, and why
these titles normally aren’t reviewed here.