Scissors

St?phane Michaka, Author, Stephane Michaka, Author
Stephane Michaka, trans. from the French by John Cullen. Doubleday/Talese, $25.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-53749-0
Reviewed on: 06/17/2013
Release date: 08/13/2013
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Based on the relationship between Raymond Carver and his editor, this novel from Michaka plods ponderously through a morass of sources (duly noted in the bibliography) in order to offer an unremarkable reconstruction of the difficult and critical period before the acclaimed short-story writer made it to the big time. The alternating first-person monologues, featuring Carver, his editor, and Carver’s first wife, Maryann Burk (“Marianne”), are laborious and stilted. The conversational quality remains elusive, so redundant are the dialogues and so monothematic the characters’ preoccupations. Interspersing a few (fictional) Carver short stories into the mix is the final blow, obliterating any lingering illusion of a narrative. This isn’t to say the novel fails as an enlightening foray into the already notorious dynamic between a talented writer and his arrogant, conceited editor. What writer hasn’t dreamed of telling a particularly ruthless editor his cuts amount to “Two and a half pages of con artistry. Some cunning tricks to take the reader in.... A cold wind blows through it from beginning to end.” Michaka’s conclusion—that Carver’s success may not have been worth it—is valid; too bad his argument is so lifeless. (Aug.)
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