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By Mark Gluth
So before anything else, please realize that I only got around a third of the way through Mark Gluth's No Other before finally giving up on it, so any review I do of it should be taken with a grain of salt; and that's because Gluth is very firmly an acolyte in the "Tao Lin School" of so-called "alt-lit" writing, and the Tao Lin school of alt-lit writing unfortunately drives me up a freaking wall. (It's defined through an endless amount of small, dry, factual declarative statements, strung together so that single paragraphs sometimes last an entire three or four pages, with no plot to speak of and no character development whatsoever. Here's a very common example from Gluth's book, at around the 10-percent mark: "He told her about his headache. Tuesday touched his forehead. He pet the dog's head. The dog licked at his mouth. Hague said that he was glad that she was home. He said that the house was so empty earlier. She leaned forward, hugged him. The light came on in the hall. It came under the door and showed on the wall. Something in his head stung his nose. Tuesday pressed the dog down. He crawled under the bed." Now imagine 200 pages in a row exactly like this.) My main problem with books like these is what Homer Simpson so succinctly summed up with after meeting Ricky Gervais for the first time -- "You take forever to say nothing!" -- that these kinds of experimental novels just have no forward drive whatsoever, nothing there that keeps me compelled to keep reading to find out what happens next; and while you can get away with that in something like a short-story format (where, admittedly, I'm a much bigger fan of this type of writing -- see my positive review of Gluth's older book, for example, the decidedly more experimental The Late Work of Margaret Kroftis), I have to confess that I personally am driven really crazy by 200-page narrative novels that are written in this style, which is why all my efforts to actually finish this book and give it a fairer review were all ultimately a disaster. I understand that there's a lot of people out there who really like this kind of stuff (hell, Blake Butler has made an entire mainstream career out of this kind of stuff), and if you're one of these people, certainly I would encourage you to check out Gluth's book in that case; but I personally am very traditional and old-fashioned when it comes to my thoughts on what a full-length three-act narrative novel is supposed to accomplish, and I ultimately find these "alt-lit" novels to be a trendy but empty flash in the pan that will soon be forgotten by literary history at large. Buyer beware.
Out of 10: 6.8