Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Salinger Contract by Adam Langer Review

It was around the 25% mark (I read this on a Kindle) when any semblance of a premise appeared - up until then it was the mundane ramblings of an unemployed literary editor. A mysterious wealthy man called Dex Dunford approaches crime novelist Conner Joyce to write a novel for him – but only for him. Ok, I thought, where’s this headed? Hopefully somewhere good!

Around the 50% mark nothing further had happened. Around the 75% mark, after some overwrought kitchen-sink drama, a half-hearted attempt at a thriller raised its head and then quickly dropped again. By the end of the book – and it’s a relatively short read at 270-ish pages – I couldn’t believe how little had actually happened. When, in those rare moments, something did occur, it always felt contrived and unconvincing (not to mention baffling – but I’ll keep this review spoiler-free).

How on earth was this tripe published?!

Among the many problems I had with this book was the weak setup where a run-of-the-mill crime novelist was picked by a supposedly discerning rich guy. Previously Dex had hired the likes of Norman Mailer, Thomas Pynchon, Harper Lee, and JD Salinger (hence the title) to write him a crime novel and then those writers would disappear and become recluses. We’re supposed to believe some crappy crime writer holds a candle to those literary giants?

Langer makes some non-observations on the state of the publishing industry that anyone who’s alive will already have noted for themselves: people are reading less these days because of other media outlets available, Young Adult fiction is on the rise, literary fiction is on the downslide, bookstores are closing en masse.

Fine - so what? Oh, that’s why no-one’s buying Conner’s crap books – the reading public are too fickle/not intellectual enough? Well, boo-fucking-hoo! If nobody reads your novels, you’re not entitled to blame everyone else for your lack of success and money – that’s solely on you. Neither the culture nor the publisher are there to subsidize writers who feel like they deserve to have everything paid for them while they write. And again Conner writes fucking crime procedural novels aka throwaway airport lounge crap! They’re not selling? Get a job, you self-important crybaby! You’re not above working a job just because you’re oh so precious about being a writer! Both Conner and Langer made me sick towards the whole profession.

The characterisations were extremely sloppy. Langer creates a bestselling YA British novelist who makes Dick Van Dyke’s performance in Mary Poppins look subtle. Dex is your archetypal mysterious wealthy guy and the others aren’t worth mentioning - they’re just putzing along. When some laughable melodrama occurred – someone’s wife leaving them over nothing, a pathetic chase sequence that peters out as rapidly as it appeared – I couldn’t care less because these characters meant nothing to me.

Langer places himself as the protagonist, an overused literary device in the first place, but it means we have to endure pages of drivel about how his wife might not get tenure at her college. Not that the rest of it is much better but if anything could’ve been cut from this nonsense to make the reading experience more interesting, it’d be those worthless passages.

What bothers me is that I can see the strings and the very lazy puppet master manipulating them, who’s totally bereft of ideas. But what irritates me more than that is the book’s message behind literature: it’s all about money. All the writers in this book are obsessed with it, particularly Langer, and that’s probably why his novel is so shit. If he cared about the art, he might produce something worth reading. As it is, he’s attempted to write commercially (a “literary thriller”, a double misnomer) and instead produced something even more disposable than the latest Fifty Shades knockoff.

Don’t bother with The Salinger Contract, it’s a dismal waste of time. This was my first and last Adam Langer novel!

The Salinger Contract

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