There are authors who can spin a plot and not provide good characters, and others can do the opposite. At the suggestion of a friend, I read one of John Irving’s books. The plot was, to be kind, not at all worth reading. The characters were wonderfully drawn, saving the day for me.
I ended up reading another couple of his books. No improvement, yet the man has had the plaudits of critics and I assume made a fortune with the movie of Garp.
I don’t know why the thought came to me, but I contrasted Irving’s books with A Talkative Corpse by Ann Sterzinger after reading.
It was with some optimism that I obtained Sterzinger’s book. She is the editor of an online venue and in her reviews and columns expresses enough thoughtcrime to pique my interest.
That, however, was not the deciding factor. More important was the price. I am often stuck several hours a day without anything to do. If I have my ancient laptop, I can write. The kindle, a tool I never thought I would like, is my break. Still, the budget is such that an outlay for a book that displeased would be a defeat.
I found The Talkative Corpse a generous bargain. Sterzinger’s main character, John Jaggo, is also our entre to the others. We don’t really hear them other than through Jaggo. Even so, we get to know, if not love them.
Interestingly, the author is a woman, but her narration in a man’s voice is correct. On her blog and columns she displays somewhat of a tough broad persona. It may not be too far a stretch in portraying the hard life of John Jaggo.
The action centers around Jaggo, chronicling his non-happy life to be preserved for a post-history future. When we meet him, he is at a low point, we guess. His life does not seem to have had many high points for contrast. One would not think such a depressed fellow would be a promising subject.
Jaggo, when we meet him has not recovered from a devastating end of his last relationship. Our man paints a picture of a right witch. He burns with a vast hatred for her.
John has a profession in which he was prosperous, but is no longer part of. The jobs usually accessible to him are those that would be referred to as soul numbing. This is a vehicle for Ann to expound on the class and employment landscape of the 21st Century.
It is not a lovely view. So-called capitalism is cruel and despite the supposed safety nets available, the cracks to fall through are wide. Jaggo is adept at finding them.
Though it is not stated, there is evidence that the man is an alcoholic. Certainly, he seems to be doing his part to keep the nation’s beverage industry healthy.
His relationship with his ex is not completely over. There is occasional texting at strategic points of pain and she occupies a lot of space in his head. His bitterness is heightened during inebriation, did we mention he is no stranger to that.
In one episode he evokes a, well I’m not sure what it is. Bertram the animani becomes his boon companion and drinking buddy. The conjured entity has a mission. He will kill the most hated person in Jaggo’s life, but also the one he loves.
To complicate matters, Jaggo has found love. Up to that point, his life and person do not make him all that loveable and hardly desirable. Yet he and May connect over music and start making beautiful music together.
It appears May has a pure love for John. There is wonderment in this because how could such a beautiful person love someone who has come across as an unattractive specimen. This brings us to the voice of humility maxim, - Love is not merely blind, it is oft deaf, dumb and stupid.
May, for all her nobility of spirit shares John’s inability to attain an economically advantageous position in life, so there may be a clue there.
Now he at least has some purpose in life. Well, two goals, love May and keep Bertram from killing her because of that.
There are parts of the book I can’t really get into. The music John and May like is not anything I have much experience of listening to, having of, being born too late. Moi, I never got the Rebecca Black hating, as I thought her song representative of most modern music. *
As noted on her blog, Ann does have a favorite music video. It is not to bad, having some energy. I don’t need to listen to it again.
Sterzinger has been linked to antinatalism. This is the idea, as far as I understand it, that we would have been better off not being born. For a good part of The Talkative Corpse, it is hard to argue that in regards to Jaggo’s sad life. When he meets May, all better. Life is still hard, he has to keep May alive and work at a lousy job, but existential purpose has arrived.
After Bertram finishes his task and departs, life will be forever sweet, or close enough we guess. He ends his missive to the future and goes on.
Sterzinger’s style and way with metaphors, with her plot bespeaks a fine talent. She deserves to be read ahead of most contemporary writers. Did I mention one?