Friday, 29 May 2015

‘This One Time’ by Alex van Tonder

Date finished: 29 May 2015

Rating: 4/5 stars

Notorious “revenge-porn” blogger Jacob Lynch, better known by his pseudonym Brodie Lomax, is in the midst of throwing the internet world on its head with the renewal of his reality TV show, seven-figure book deal, and of course his revenge-porn blog, when he suddenly vanishes out of range of any wi-fi hotspot. An escape to an isolated hunting lodge in the middle of Alaska seems to be the perfect cure for his writer’s block – until the mysterious Alicia shows up. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned, and when he wakes up chained to a bed, revenge- and grief-stricken Alicia seems more than happy to give him – quite literally – a dose of his own sick medicine.

Alex van Tonder’s debut novel is exciting, unexpected and undeniably crazy – much like her psychotic bride-to-be-on-the-loose, Alicia. I experienced so many conflicting thoughts and emotions that by the time I finally closed the book I had to sit back for a little while and take about five or six deep, deep breaths. Jacob is simultaneously infuriating – I wanted to kill him for about 95% of the novel, or at least give him a serious lecture on basic human decency and how not to destroy other people’s lives – and frustratingly likeable. I was startled that at some points, I actually didn’t want Alicia to mutilate him, and hoped he’d be able to find his way back home somehow. I think that exposes some really good writing – the way in which van Tonder was able to completely expose a “Professional Douchebag” (to use her own words) of a man, and yet still invoke sympathy for him in her readers is quite phenomenal.

I had a little bit of a problem with the way in which men and women were portrayed, but I suppose that can be put down to the novel being from Jacob's perspective. He is the textbook definition of a misogynist. Still, all the women were portrayed as fame-hungry, Instagram-obsessed, sex-crazed, desperate housewives that only needed a little money to be convinced that their leaked sex-tape was not so bad after all. And the men were just as bad: drug-addicted, noncommittal, self-absorbed morons with nothing better to do than follow the instructions of the "internet-cool kids". 

But then, in total, terrifying contrast, Alicia is totally bonkers. She is one-hundred-percent, lock-away-in-an-asylum-forever crazy, and for a little while I sat there half-smiling at the book thinking, “Nah, come on… she would never really do tha– OH. WAIT. NOPE, SHE DID. OKAY.” I was so wrapped in shock at her inhumanity that when the plot twist finally crashed the party, I pretty much had an aneurism.

Then, because it’s a mysterious new genre of social-media-crime-thriller-fiction, about fifteen more rapid, expertly timed and executed plot twits threw the whole story on its head again, leading up to an ending I can only explain as ‘throw-the-book-at-the-wall’-worthy. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since – but that’s the way you know it was a damn good book, right?

This One Time is witty, dark and somewhat brilliant. Its bold originality and sharp, fast-paced writing makes for an incredible novel, with enough twists and turns to make its readers feel almost as disoriented as Jacob himself. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

[Insert Witty Title Here]

Hello, person that is also undoubtedly also currently procrastinating.

I’m back! 

Momentarily, that is. I had a moment of total shock-and-horror mixed with a bit of shame on Thursday that sparked off two nights of lying awake feeling guilty. (That’s actually a lie – I was up doing a Music composition that I’d left until pretty much the last minute, frantically trying to salvage what little creativity I had left and put it into notes before the due date. It didn’t go well.)

In any case, I was at a Writers Write dinner and meet-and-greet-type-thing with SA author Alex van Tonder, lost in my own thoughts about all the work I’d abandoned at my desk that seemed to be surmounting by the second, when I was introduced to – and I quote – “a huge fan” of mine.

So I’m standing half-dazed and totally confused, expecting it to be some joke in which somebody introduces the greatest pun of all time and walks in with a ceiling fan or something to that extent, when this well-dressed lady walks up to me and says, “Are you Amy? Oh my goodness I love your blog!”

To which I responded, “My wha –“ followed by a garbled and probably largely inaudible, “uhsghedib thabk yoh.”

The conversation continued with this total stranger articulating herself perfectly about how much she liked my writing. Me. The person opening and closing her mouth like a fish, occasionally gurgling a “wow” or “thanks so much”, and generally resembling a zombie of sorts.

Eventually, she left me standing gob smacked (there is no other phrase that accurately describes the feeling – I finally understand) with a grinning, gloating father by my side that was turning to the people around us and loudly announcing my url. That was the point when I had the oh-so-familiar feeling of “oh-crap-I-abandoned-my-baby-for-like-a-month” (blog, baby… same thing), followed by the new and totally overwhelming feeling of “ALL-OF-THESE-PEOPLE-ARE-GOING-TO-SEE-MY-FAILURE. AND-THEY-KNOW-WHAT-I-LOOK-LIKE-NOW. THEY-KNOW-WHERE-TO-FIND-ME”.

So, yeah. That triggered a full-on panic attack of note.

But after sitting in class on Friday, daydreaming (stressing) about totally irrelevant things, as usual, I came to the conclusion that I’m not going to feel guilty about not posting as often any more. And I’m not going to post a seven-thousand word apology for that anymore, either (which this isn’t, just for the record). Neither you nor I have the time for that any more.

I’m in my last year of school, and while it may not be as full of assignments and tests as I expected yet (i.e. I’m only pulling all-nighters once a week or so to catch up on work), it is incredibly emotionally draining to be constantly worrying about school and university and NBTs and ORTs and CAT work and a whole lot of other acronyms that I can’t even remember.

So I’m not going to be blogging as much this year. I might skip out a couple of Nerd Lists in favor of doing things I like significantly less, like studying for Physics and waiting by my mailbox for my Rhodes acceptance letter (seriously guys? You’ve sent an sms and an email that it’s on its way but I can’t stand the anticipation and I want a hard copy for bragging rights). But I’m not going to abandon this blog. It is my passion – the love child of an over-imaginative brain and an undeniable fear of commitment to actually doing something “useful”. And I’m going to try my best to stay in touch with the side of myself that I expose on here, because it’s the side of myself that I’ve grown to love the most. (The side of me that wants to get 90% for Maths is getting extremely annoying with her high-pitched squeaking and jumping up and down in the corner of my brain begging for me to focus on extraneous things like geometry. Who needs geometry anyway?)

I have big things planned. Everything’s starting to fall into place – I can feel it. Soon we’ll be together again (*cue romantic background music*).

To all the new readers – don’t fret. If I don’t post in a month or so, there are around a hundred incredibly embarrassing posts and reviews that you’ll undoubtedly be able to use against me in the future. Screenshot them. Make photocopies. Stick them on your wall to remind you that your life could be worse. (They’ll keep you entertained in the meantime – I promise.)

And all the people that keep coming back – you guys are pretty awesome. You’re also all baffling and I have no idea why you’re still here, but thanks.

(I also listened to a talk by John Boyne today and I’m hoping that I can post something about it tomorrow that isn’t just “John Boyne aksjhdbasmaskad”.)