By George Singleton
Singleton’s comic stories seem to be everywhere, and I guess in a short form they are tolerable. Stretch that out into a novel and you get Novel, I suppose, and it was barely readable. This is the story, if you can call it that, of Novel Akers, raised in North Carolina by his hippie parents, now married to Bekah Cathcart and currently living in Gruel, South Carolina, which is as weird a place as you’re likely to find. There are mysteries and Novel stumbles across various answers to them that don’t make any sense, and the book doesn’t so much end as just stop before anything is really explained. Mercifully. The one bit that was kind of fun, and the reason I bought the book in the first place, thinking it was a bigger part of the story than it turned out to be, was when Novel reinvents the Gruel Inn, Bekah’s inherited motel business, as a writers’ retreat, although he only pretends to be a novelist because of his name. There are some shallow digs on the subject of writers’ “how to” books and writers’ conferences and retreats, but much, much more could have been made of it. The rest of the book is silly puns and bad jokes.
If you were thinking of buying this book, don’t. If you were thinking of reading it, don’t bother.