September 24, 2009

Book review: "Swimming Inside the Sun," by David Zweig

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Swimming Inside the Sun, by David Zweig
Swimming Inside the Sun
By David Zweig
Second Guess Media / ISBN: 978-0-61529-750-7

So for my overly violent reaction to musician David Zweig's literary debut Swimming Inside the Sun to make sense, I need to first make the following perfectly clear, that I do not automatically hate all novels about young white male insufferable big-city hipster douchebags, simply because they happen to be the main character; after all, one of my favorite books of all time, Michael FitzGerald's remarkable Radiant Days, has just such an insufferable douchebag at the heart of its own story. But Cheese And Rice, people, before even a single one of you send me another book like this again, let me try to make this as clear as I possibly can: that for such a book to be a success, something has to actually happen to this hipster douchebag, some kind of journey or change or punishment or something that makes him a different person by the end than he was at the start.

And that's the main problem with Swimming, the problem that turns this book from merely a bad one to an actively offensive one, is that it's 450 excruciating pages of one of these insufferable douchebags falling ass-backwards into money and record deals and easy pussy, just to watch him piss it all away without learning a single godd-mn lesson the entire time; and even worse, he has the audacity to complain about it all as he's going through it, one of those intolerable f-cks who whines at every opportunity about all the intolerable f-cks he's surrounded by, one of those ridiculous urban doofuses who feels like he's the only human being who should have the right to be a ridiculous urban doofus, and who you just want to slap the plastic-glasses-wearing sh-t out of every time you meet one of them at yet another gallery opening or cocktail party. ("How dare a reasonably attractive drunk woman from my neighbor's party show up at my door at midnight unannounced and offer to have no-strings-attached sex with me! Why doesn't a drunk supermodel from my neighbor's party ever show up at my door at midnight unannounced and offer to have no-strings-attached sex with me!" F-CK YOU, HIPSTER DOUCHEBAG!) [UPDATE: The author of this book has asked me to clarify that the previous sentence is a paraphrase, not a direct quote from the book. See his comments over at Goodreads for more.]

But still, even with all this, I still try as often as possible to actually finish a novel before passing such harsh judgment on it, just in case the author manages to pull it all together by the end, but just simply couldn't in this case; and that's because, right about halfway through Swimming Inside the Sun, the main character/author stand-in delivers this three-page monologue about what a "cheat" it is when a novel skips over such banalities among its characters as the hours they spend watching television and the like, and how if he had his way, there would be a law requiring all creative projects to actually include all the moments where characters take a dump or stare at the walls or eat some lunch while reading a magazine. And that's when I finally had to angrily shake my head, put down the book, and mutter to myself, "Okay, I see now -- you simply don't understand the basic rules of constructing an entertaining fictional project to begin with. And there's no point in even reading the last 225 pages of this novel, because it's just never going to get any better than the nearly unreadable first 225 pages I've already slogged my way through."

You see, that's why movies don't consist of someone simply following around a random person with a camera until they run out of film; because that's stupid and pointless, the kind of unfiltered experience we actually get from real life, while an artistic narrative-based project is instead supposed to give us a distilled look at a life's highlights, of the special moments where we can actually learn something about ourselves and the world around us, precisely by observing this series of unusual events going on in these particular characters' lives. No, what you've created, see, is instead called masturbation; and no offense, but I've got another dozen books sitting right here next to me as we speak, all of which I'm desperately trying to get through by the end of the year, by authors who actually respect me as an audience member and are concerned over whether I'm being entertained by their story or not, and don't just assume that I'm going to be riveted by scenes of whiny hipster douchebags sitting around gazing at their own navels for hours on end, simply because they're super f-cking geniuses whose farts smell like spring wildflowers. (And seriously, Zweig, enough with the rambling bullsh-t about the magic of the recording process; one or two pages of this stuff is more than enough to get your point across to all us non-musicians out there, not the unbelievable 32 pages on the subject that you include in the first half of this novel.) So thanks for the opportunity, you know, but please take your borderline-misogynist, soy-milk-drinking, dick-whacking douchebag narrator somewhere else. He's not wanted here.

Out of 10: 1.4

Read even more about Swimming Inside the Sun: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Shelfari

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:54 AM, September 24, 2009. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |