Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ex Libris: David Czuchlewski's The Muse Asylum

There are readings and there are readings.

In a previous post I mentioned the problems I sometimes encounter when reading a book. As much as possible, I try not to let my bias about the book-- whether concept, genre, or idea about it-- get in the way of the actual reading of the book. But when my feeling for a book I'm reading ping-pongs between 'meh' and throwing it at a wall, then I know that there's no hope for it at all.

Case in point is David Czuchlewski's The Muse Asylum. I picked up a copy of this book despite being non-genre because of its interesting speculative fiction elements. A reporter, Jake Burnett, researches on a mysterious hermitish author named Horace Jacob Little whose body of work is reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon. Parallel to Jake's story is the ramblings of the paranoid (or is he really?) Andrew Wallace, a former classmate of Jake, who is incarcerated in the said Muse Asylum, a psych ward for artists.

Linking the two is Lara Knowles, the third point in the romantic entanglements of the story. When Jake discovers Andrew's writings about his nemesis, the aforementioned Little, he finds himself walking on thin ice. Is Little really the almost-omniscient writer holding the puppet strings? Or is Andrew just plain crazy?

I must confess though that I never really got to that part where the said revelations occur. A third way into the book, I couldn't stand reading it anymore. It could be the almost self-conscious tone of the writing or the circular topic of writers writing about writers and writing. Granted the writing is well-crafted, the characterization almost veers into literary stereotypes with its budding writer-narrator, his dissolute editor-in-chief of a boss at the newspaper where he works, and his lazy bum of a college roommate straight out of a teen flick movie.

I suppose the ultimately kicker that knocked me out of reading loop was the scene wherein Jake discovers his roommate playing a video game. Really, you can try to make your characters as humanly as possible but you couldn't make a believable video game? Even the '80s games I remember in my childhood weren't as badly conceived as that.

I did try to get past that point by scanning chapters and pages for probable gems that would lure me back into reading but no such luck. So rather than suffer through more pages in hopes that I'd find myself reading an unsought treasure, I decided to set aside this book and read something else. (Rating: One paw out four.)

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