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Hell of a Book: A Novel de Jason Mott
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Hell of a Book: A Novel (edició 2021)

de Jason Mott (Autor)

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544385,383 (3.23)1
Títol:Hell of a Book: A Novel
Autors:Jason Mott (Autor)
Informació:Dutton (2021), 336 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Etiquetes:Read and Reviewed

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Hell of a Book de Jason Mott

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Es mostren totes 4
Oof. Hell of a Book starts out strong but quickly set my teeth on edge, not for intended reasons but because it's so gimmicky. I found all the meta-vagueness, including the title, bothersome. While I did appreciate Mott's target, he missed the mark.

Structurally, every other chapter revolves around a child called "Soot." Soot's tale is poignant, relevant, and deeply affecting, and could have been the whole book. Instead, the short chapters containing Soot's stories are followed by lengthier chapters that comprise the bulk of the book and revolve around the unnamed author.

Most every aspect of the unnamed author's story feels annoyingly gimmick-laden, starting with him characterizing himself as having an unnamed illness related to an overactive imagination ala The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This fellow also has a penchant for occasionally slipping into 40's and 50's private eye patter and speech patterns for no f*@#% reason. He claims that he's telling a love story (a plethora of Kellys with different spellings are briefly touched upon). Instead a great deal of this unnamed author's story is an indictment of the publishing industry. I have no quarrel with his depiction of the difficult demands put on an author, but this really should be a side note rather taking up as much as space as it does.

Another main thread, and what I mostly appreciated, is the manner in which Mott discusses race. and his commentary about what it is to be Black in America. The never-ending vigil against what things might be said or done to you or denied you is ever-present in both in Soot's story and in the unnamed author, and is the part that he captures quite well. The rest of it--the drunken escapades, the memory lapses (the unnamed author doesn't know what his book is about and all along his book tour never remembers what he actually said) gets tiresome fast. I know it's satiric, but I never found any of the unnamed author's antics to be funny. What other readers deem "hilarious," I found terribly unfunny.

Mott and the readers who enjoyed this probably thought some levity was needed since the underpinnings of the novel are so grim. Which bring me back to my original feeling. I spent a lot of time gritting my teeth. When Mott's characters are dead serious, his writing is pitch perfect. When he goes off on the goofball s%# the writing is clunky and served to take me out of the story. Maybe that was on purpose, mimicking the ways in which sometimes as a Black person you are forced to disassociate from yourself as a way to disassociate from the way you're being received in a moment. Perhaps that's not reserved only for Black readers. I obviously can't speak for every Black person in America--which is one of Mott's points--but for me, he nailed what it can feel like and be like to be marginalized while you're simultaneously being lauded and expected to speak for everyone who looks like you to everyone who doesn't look like you. Still, it didn't make it a hell of a book. Mateo Askaripour's Black Buck is another recent satire about being Black in America. It is a novice book and lacks maturity of a more established novelist. In contrast, because Hell of a Book feels like it's been written by someone who has been around the block as a writer and as a human, it is arguably more disappointing. Mott has stated in interviews that he wanted to show not tell what it means to be black in America. I think this book is more successful when it tells.

SPOILER: Very early on it becomes clear that there will be a convergence of Soot, The Kid, and the unnamed writer and that perhaps they are all manifestations of the same person. A friend who read the book after me shared the hypothesis she formulated midway through her reading that maybe the unnamed writer had been the victim of a shooting and the sum of the book was taking place as he faded in and out of consciousness. That would have been an excellent way to hold the story to together. ( )
  mpho3 | Aug 3, 2021 |
Was intrigued by the title and the premise of a Black author promoting his book while also telling the story of Soot, a young Black boy in the recent past and The Kid, an imaginary character that appears to the author. Okay, that sounds interesting! I was also wondering how it would integrate racism, history, family, love, etc. that were all mentioned and was prepared for a ride.

Apparently the book is also trying to be a satire of what it's like to go on book tours (of which I have some familiarity with having once worked at a bookstore) but overall...I didn't get it. Is this about trying to speak to a particular audience? Is this a specific story for the author?

There seemed like an interesting story to tell but I was completely confused and baffled as to what was happening here and what the author was trying to do. I understand what the author was trying to get across, and some of the very heavy and important topics here, but overall this definitely wasn't a book for me.

I'd skip this one, but as many liked it perhaps it was just a matter of me not being the right audience or mood for it.

Borrowed from the library and that was best for me. ( )
  HoldMyBook | Jul 13, 2021 |
Is an individual of a marginalized group obligated to speak out and take responsibility for creating change? How can an author shine a unique light on recurring messages that no one seems to want to receive? Jason Mott’s Hell of a Book delivers its crucial message by using meta-fiction and humor in a refreshing way. The unnamed author of a sudden bestseller is forced to travel around “performing” to enhance sales. What he has learned is that America only accepts watered-down and innocuous stories, even at the expense of the work’s original purpose. Unpalatable realities are best delivered in a way that assuages guilt so potential buyers won’t be too uncomfortable. He also describes his life-long “imagination condition” which causes him to experience hallucinations. He can never really trust his own perceptions of the world, yet now he is expected to be a carefully managed representative of his race. This interesting plot is enhanced by an interweaving story of a young boy nicknamed “Soot” due to his unusually dark skin. Soot is an outcast, tormented by blatant racism even within his own community. His over-protective parents had tried to buffer the realities of racial inequity, police brutality and violence. They convinced the boy that he must “become invisible” to remain safe. The author encounters and befriends the boy, but he is the only one who can see him. Hell of a Book takes on many timely themes and topics and delivers them indirectly through the voices of its two wonderful characters. From their stories, the reader might be vulnerable to receiving a lesson on societal problems as they are distracted by also being entertained. The anonymous narrator discovers the purpose of his own book and his connection with Soot, and readers will be tremendously moved and enlightened to join in this journey as well.

Thanks to the author, Penguin and Library Thing for an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review. ( )
  jnmegan | Jul 7, 2021 |
Jason Mott's Hell of a Book won't just make my best-of-the-year books list. We're not too far into the decade, but I'd be willing to bet that it will show up on my best-of-the-decade list for the 2020s. I read Hell of a Book in two days, and I resented every moment when I couldn't be reading it. One in, I wanted to stay there. Hell of a Book involves a dark version of magical realism and a fair bit of sarcasm, but none of this undercuts the real-world truths that Mott confronts readers with.

I don't, however, want to say a lot about the book's contents in this review because I don't want to influence others' reading of it. The novel is grounded in the frequent police use of lethal force that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement and the long history of that violence that predates our particular historical moment. The chapters of Hell of a Book move among the experiences of three (or more? or fewer?) Black men—actually two boys and one man. The boys' lives have been irrevocably altered by police violence. The man, an author who has difficulty separating the real and the imaginary and who travels the country on a seemingly endless book tour, wants to do all he can to ignore the situation of these boys and others like them, even as story after story after story of their lives and others' dominates the news.

Read this book. Read it. Read it when you have few enough interruptions that you can immerse yourself in its world and live there for a while.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher; the opinions are my own. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | May 21, 2021 |
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813.6 — Literature American and Canadian American fiction 21st Century

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