Friday, September 13, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: Jason Martin, Voluptua

This book is about to become a huge best seller. I can't believe the state of things. 

A New Jersey college professor of French and Comparative Literature, Jason Martin has written a first novel that one assumes will make him filthy rich: Voluptua. Allow me here and now to destroy whatever career I might otherwise have had as a low rent reviewer of fine contemporary American writing.

The author is no youngster. He's likely older by far than I am, and I am an old guy. So, what possesses a man at this late date in life to write a book about anything at all? And why this book, Voluptua?  What are we dealing with here?

The protagonist of this "novel," that is a novel of ideas, (a poor attempt to fictionalise personal concerns, as gone over in agonising detail in my writing on the repulsive moron James Redfield, whose name I refuse to mention, in his garbage book, The Celestine Prophecy, a piece of vile trash that has sold over 20 million copies and was made into a Hollywood movie,) is a professor of French Literature at a small American college. Rather than 99 years old, she is only 29. Rather than being a bald guy, she apparently has another attribute that causes people to stare at her. I assume the author means big tits. Her department head sexually harasses her. This is a bad thing. She has an affair with an Indonesian janitor with the latter's wife's approval-- because the wife is Muslim and doesn't mind that her husband screws around. He could if he so chose, have four wives. Thus, our liberated college prof. feels no pangs of fangs. She's a modern woman, perhaps even bi-sexually curious. She has no problem, and in fact likes, sex with sleazy Cuban gigolos. Sex with four identical men, the other identical pair too impatient to wait having sex with each other, is just right. That last part, though, being phantasy, of course, part of her awakening to higher realities induced by taking ayahuasca. But all of this is OK because she has a Ph.D. in French Literature. She's a middle class success. She a modern grrrl. It's all about spiritual growth. It's about finding the right shaman in Iquitos, Peru so her ayahuasca experiences can bring her to a better state of self.

That's how I fell into this pot of shit. I live in Iquitos, and I write about ayahuasca. In fact, I have written so much about ayahuasca that as I was returning from the photocopy shop with my current 75,000 word manuscript on the subject I found myself being hailed to pick up this mailed novel by Martin. I'd forgotten that I volunteered for this when an unsolicited email came my way asking if I would like to review a book about ayahuasca. It's a bunch late now for all concerned to say, "Sorry, author of Confessions of an Ayahuasca Sceptic." [Due for publication in late 2013.] Well, here I am up to my knees in shit. I volunteered to review a book about Iquitos and ayahuasca. A book about ayahuasca and Iquitos? Nope. I don't have that book in Voluptua. I have instead a boring and embarrassingly poor attempt at a novel by a man with no ability to write fiction. Does it matter? Not one bit, if we can take the example of the greatest idiot hack who ever sold 20 million copies of the worst trash "fiction" ever written. Because this book is at least twice the book above, I'm guessing Jason Martin's Voluptua is going to sell half that many books. I think this book is going to be a winner. I think Martin is going to get rich. What are the chances of me ever being asked to write another review? About as good as hitting up Martin for a loan. Who's the idiot here?

Don't answer that.

In this city that brings in millions of dollars annually from the ayahuasca business, here I am writing a long book with the stunningly antagonistic title "Confessions of an Ayahuasca Sceptic." A smart guy writes a creepy pseudo-novel about a slut who takes drugs and fucks off from her job to live like a bum in the Amazon jungle. Wait a minute! I'm a guy-slut who fucked off from reality to live like a bum in the Amazon jungle. Oh, no. I take ayahuasca! Then I go and write that I'm sceptical about it all. The only good news in this is that the ayahuasca crowd here who now hate me have so far missed with every rock they've thrown my way. Book sales? Uh....

Uh, duh.

After a long career of teaching people about French Literature, Jason Martin has written a non-novel about a young woman working at a small university where she teaches French Literature. She has this dream about going to Peru to try ayahuasca. She read about it in a book. But she's afraid to do it in the flesh because she doesn't want to throw up, a part of taking ayahuasca. But as a character she has no problem making me throw up.

The story, such as it is, is set in a university in which the creepy people who populate it are essentially malicious gossips. They cheat on each other, sell their wives to others for job security, and then commit suicide when the deal falls through. To make this a "classy" novel, the author seems obsessed with name-dropping of French intellectuals. But he gets off on the wrong track instantly by referring to a Spanish idiot, Garcia Lorca, and some tenuous and tedious relationship with Salvador Dali. "It's so French." Existentialism, you know. Camus. Sartre. "Rhymes with fart." Yeah, a class act here. Lots of French names people might have heard of somewhere in college.

Garcia Lorca? Who cares? Someone likely to be misunderstood as H. Balzac? Name-dropping? I found myself wondering why no mention of Roland, Racine, Rabelais, Rimbaud. It's like an English Lit. prof. not mentioning Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, or me. Artaud? Zola? Nope. Only those one might expect a general reader to have perhaps heard of, though not really likely. French Literature is not my area of expertise, but I can hold my own in intelligent and educated company when the subject arises. My knowledge is encyclopedic, in fact. Not particularly deep, but broad beyond the norm even for French intellectuals. It doesn't make me a better person. I'm not impressed by a book that pretends the author is because he, a professor of French Literature, can drop a lot of French names. It's a veneer to cover up the real intention of his work. That, of course, is good marketing these days. The author is selling cheap pornography to lonely fat girls, hence the title: Voluptua.  To those of us who have some deep and mostly esoteric knowledge, it means "fat girl." The intended audience. Martin is going to make a killing. It's so French. Look at all these French names. The porn is hot, too.

How do I know this? I asked a fat girl to look at this book for me when she told me that she read half a page of my other book soon to go to press, Iquitos, Peru: Almost Close. I figure if she doesn't like my work, perhaps she will like porn for ugly fat girls. Her response to the blurb? "It looks really, really good." Yes, dear reader, she really, really said that. I am destined to a life of poverty. Martin is going to get rich. So is his publisher.

My publisher has fucked up my last book so badly I am humiliated. There are typos on close to 100 pages of 235, and now the cover graphic is missing. I'm not ever going to get rich on this book of mine. Martin is likely to get more money from his book in a day than I make in ten years. People mostly love this stuff he's done. I'm obviously not one of them. Even my editor hates me. Look at what he's done to my book. It is a sick and dirty world, and it is a world Jason Martin fits into very successfully. Who am I to argue with his success.

Dag Walker
Iquitos, Peru
A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
This review will be part of a chapter on English language writing on Iquitos in my up-coming book, Iquitos, Peru: Almost Close.

I passed this book to a young fat girl for her take on it, and she is in a swoon. I am accepting donations of lengths of rope and sturdy beams.