January 23, 2009

Book review: "End Credits," by AF Rützy

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End Credits, by AF Rützy
End Credits (book; 2008)
By AF Rützy
Casperian Books / ISBN: 978-1-93408-102-0

So why have I so far in 2009 been getting so few book reviews written? Well, partly it's just an ongoing difficulty I've been having since the holidays to get back into my regular routine, a particularly challenging problem when you're self-employed and work from home like I do; but then part of it, I have to guiltily admit, is from having a whole pile of only so-so books stacked up in my reading queue these days, ones that have been owed critiques for sometimes months now, but that I've been having problems in every case actually getting through. Take today's book under examination, for example, AF Rützy's absurdist novel about corporate culture, End Credits; because the fact is that I found it neither exceedingly good nor exceedingly bad, but instead difficult to feel passionately about one way or another at all, making it difficult sometimes to get motivated enough simply to sit down and make my way through another 50 or 75 pages of it on any given day.

See, it's sorta one of those wacky dark modern comedies along the lines of Carl Hiassen or Christopher Moore; the tale of a sad-sack minor employee of a corrupt corporate-owned newspaper, who ends up dying and being reincarnated as a high-powered executive at an outrageously evil ad agency. This then lets Rützy add a whole series of zany, over-the-top minor characters to both situations, comparing and contrasting the environments in unique ways much like TC Boyle often does in his work; and this also lets him construct a pretty entertaining absurdist plotline holding it all together, one involving cultishly popular pigs, fey corporate heirs, affairs and takeovers and everything else one would want in a good dark comedy. And indeed, there are moments in this manuscript where Rützy really shines, lots of great little lines and details that could've come straight from the best work of Robert Anton Wilson or Warren Ellis.

But there are serious problems with End Credits too, enough like I said to balance out the good parts and make the book in general only average; for example, there's his bad habit of overwriting most of his points, of overexplaining what is essentially some pretty basic messages about the dark allure of capitalism, the politics of desire, etc. This is bound not to bother some very much, while driving others a little crazy, depending on how much of the original source material regarding these subversive thoughts you're already familiar with -- those who are already fans of Noam Chomsky, for example, are sure to go a little nuts from the simplicity of the sermons being preached here. And then there's also the problem of Rützy having too many characters, and then adding to the problem by introducing them in a chaotic way, making it difficult at first to determine how they all relate to each other and what they will all eventually have to do with the main storyline; and again, this isn't so bad with a dark comedic writer like, say, Tom Wolfe, who will use 400 or 500 pages to eventually pull it all together, but becomes a lot more problematic in a 200-page manuscript like this one that clearly also wants to have the zippy quick pace of a television show.

In fact, that I think is the most illuminating observation I can make about Rützy and End Credits; that ultimately it seems like the kind of novel that would come from a staff writer of a Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams TV series, some side project they cranked out during summer hiatus before heading back to Buffy or Lost or whatever. As I've mentioned many times, I'm not exactly the biggest fan of these types of authors, because of them often writing at a level exactly one step slower and simpler than I personally like; but based on the number of angry emails I get every time I mention something like this online, there are of course many many people out there who disagree with such an opinion. For all of you, I whole-heartedly recommend this short and fast novel, about the best example I can think of regarding something being "middle of the road" in a sincerely good way.

Out of 10: 7.9

Read even more about End Credits: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

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Filed by Jason Pettus at 3:33 PM, January 23, 2009. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |