Say what you will about Twitter, it is clearly a solid marketing tool. I recently purchased Disco Boy by Dominic Knight based solely on the fact that I appreciated the author's Tweets and writing style. Actually, I think it was an article he wrote on his speed dating experience that sold me. It was a very familiar take on a not too distant personal experience leading to more than one knowing chuckle. It was absolutely not The Chaser Thing, but I think that was how I stumbled upon his Twitter account.
So after grumpily forking over my hard-earned cash on a marked-up signed copy of the book (I was way too lazy to hike to another bookstore for the cheaper version), I actually read it. This was a feat in itself considering the large pile of books that sit unread on my bookshelf. I love buying them, but making the time to read them? Whole other story. I finished the book late last night and I felt, perplexed.
I can't quite put my finger on why, the story itself was not an unfamiliar tale, but I think it was about my own assumptions of the book's target audience. I haven't read much 'LadLit' (or 'ChickLit' for that matter), but I suspect Disco Boy would fall into that genre. Certainly in the past I have spurned fiction novels written about men, by men with the reasoning that "I have enough problems wading through books about neurotic women, let alone books about neurotic men". I suspect I was referring to the work of Nick Earls at the time. A body of work whose only highlights I remember being the thrill of actually knowing where "Zigzag Street" was. And as I read Disco Boy I was filled with the sense that perhaps this novel was not 'for' me, me being a twenty-something female and all.
So I think what perplexed me was the fact that I actually identified with the main character. He drove a Volvo (I miss my old beast to this day), he lived with his parents, he had dissed a conventional career path for something other (my parents still have not got over the jump from would-be-medical student to social worker), and he used humour/smart-arsed-ness in his flirtations (although I do find this to be a hinderance as it is not always picked up on and I end up spending hours stroking fragile male egos). Not too mention the sections covering the interpretation and composition of SMS and E-Mail communications. They hit a little bit close to the bone. Particularly the notion of 'taking time to respond', a rather distasteful habit of mine. Although sometimes it is just the fact that I am easily distractible or a little bit lazy.
By the time I got to the end of the book my thought processes were running something along the lines of: Are men and women really that different? Perhaps I should read more LadLit to try and figure it out? Urgh, but I really don't want to. Perhaps this is merely the reflection of one man (the author) rather than all men, what with it being a first novel with a proclaimed "use of self" in its creation. Perhaps I just want to apply it to all men to make myself feel less alone. Perhaps my mother is right, perhaps I do give men too much credit. No! I cannot believe they are all buffoons, despite evidence to the contrary. Damn it. I'm confused. Perhaps this isn't a gender thing at all. Perhaps it's just a middle class thing.
And so on, and so forth.
Ultimately, any story or character that elicits an emotional reaction (and a blog post) is a good one. Even if it serves merely as an example of my own capacity to over-think things. And I was always more interested in reading the book from the perspective of a would-be-writer-of-god-knows-what to gain some insight into the process of another writer's first work of fiction. And in that sense it was very interesting, and I am more than happy to have supported it. I have the utmost respect for novelists as the idea of ever writing a book completely overwhelms me. Would I recommend Disco Boy to my lady friends? Probably not, but I will pass it on to a couple of my man friends. I'd be very keen to hear their opinions.