BY JACKIE ATKINS[WRITERSCLEARINGHOUSE NEWS SERVICE]
There is nothing more exciting than getting in touch with your own ego and a keyboard. Think of this as an extension for self love through instant gratification.
Throw in a first rate mind, a talent for adverbial abstracts and a raging male hormones libido and you’ll have the thrill and exasperation behind reading Lance Manion’s Homo sayswhaticus. The author’s fifth book of essays, currently an Internet rage.
One approaches Manion’s first paragraph of the Introduction with sublime adulation (how else can you digest “Death by Viagra”?) and leaves 126 pages later with an itch to slap him in the face, proof positive that for erection lasting longer than twenty four hours a doctor should be consulted.
In between you are amused, bored, redeemed and frustrated. You yell out, “He’s got all this talent, give me a story for Christ's sake. Show me an honest critiques. Do something, Manion, besides playing with yourself!”
From the high cost of snacks at the movies “Lemon Drops” and the need to buy at a Dollar Store for fuelling, to his last morsel, “ The Ball Washer,” don’t ask, but, yes, it is about the title and Manion’s cleanliness.
You want to strangle J.D. Salinger for what he has wrought.
Catcher in the Rye started this, self imposed angst, but at least there was a story line to Holden Caufield’s journey. Manion prefers to just meander. If there is a message, plot or philosophy other that abject sophism, you’d be hard pressed to clench it.
OK, I get it, the subjective style written from the point of view of the protagonist is de rigueur but sometimes, just maybe sometimes, enough is enough. What’s the point of all this huffing and puffing if it doesn’t blow a house down? When the pronoun “I” becomes an imperative, writers should realise they are risking losing a weary audience.
At first your enjoyment in his turns of the language, gives way to confused ennui and then annoyance and finally, the worst possible reactions a writer can get for anyone reading his work, total indifference.
Isn’t self expression in pithy inane prologue the domain of Twitter? Any one can Twit. Lance Manion is not just anyone.
He is different from the hungry hordes on Pinterest in a major respect. He can write. However, he fails, in Homo sayswhaticus to heed any of Benjamin Franklins’s caution to writers. Franklin, speaker from a publishers perspective, advised 18th century submitters to his various journals, how to be accepted by himself and his readers. If you want to get published, he cautioned, "write something worth the reading or do something worth the writing.” Notice he didn’t say “know how to write.” Writing something worth the reading is a different. The emphasis is not on a writer's talents, but on the word “worth.”
Is it really edifying or inspiring to read, “It has been my experience that the size of a woman's breasts is relative to how much padding her heart needs." Emotional air bags (from an essay entitled “A Train with all Cabooses pt. 1”) or stumble upon, “Authors such as me are vital and ride in to the rescue to champion bad sentence structure.” (from the appropriately titled, “Bad Advice for Writers”). Amusing yes, but graffiti is amusing unless of course it is on your wall.
Still, reading Manion, can be beneficial if you want to understand what you sound like as a braggadocio at a sports bar or relive your second year at college beer keg mixer.
You might also be able to say, if Mr. Manion ever bothers to develop a plot to his madness, you read his early works. His short pieces on love lost, love renewed, the endurance of the human spirit both in himself and the least likely of people he has pre-judged reveal a manly sensitivity not read often after Hemingway shot himself.
Somewhere between the lines, especially when his disclosures -- perish the thought -- of sensitivity to the human condition and vulnerability of spirit surface, is a first rate author trying to dig out of his own grave of self induced hip hop mania. Read Lance Manion at your own peril and then pray for the redemption of this writer’s soul.