Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dane pined for change

This review is going to be disjointed. I'd try to put together a summary to really pull everything together, but I read this book over a long period of time and in between I wrote down thoughts here as I went. So yeah, fair warning (both in the structure of this AND that this book took me forever, which isn't a great sign.)

Ad Nomad by Eric Jay Sonnenschein is the story of Dane Bacchus, a college writing professor who, upon losing his job as a professor, decides to go into advertising. He goes from agency to agency writing copy for pharmaceutical companies. There are late nights and fights with co-workers and every once in awhile an ad gets made.

I went back and forth on this one. Because at first I really enjoyed it. I was a bit hesitant after The Mine but I was liking this. The writing kept me entertained and I wanted to see what would happen. And then I saw what happened. And then it happened again. And again. And again. For 600 pages.

One thing that I realized off the bat was going to be a sticking point for me was the the author and I were approaching advertising from very different places. He's coming at it from the point of view that advertising is a center of creativity, a place where someone can make something while still being able to make a decent living. I, on the other hand, am coming at it from the point of view that advertising is manipulative and just wants you the consumer to spend your money. I don't deny there is some creativity there, but I don't think it's really some noble pursuit.

I think the character of Dane is manic depressive or something because he flies into these ranges about the tiniest things. Or maybe he's just an asshole. Though I'm not sure the purpose was to make him an asshole. But that's how he comes across. A super unstable asshole who will start foaming at the mouth if you dare add a comma to his copy. Or if his "work wife" starts working with someone else in the office he gets jealous and confronts her about it and are you crazy, sir? I guess the problem is I don't think he was supposed to be a lunatic. But he is. If it was supposed to be intentional it would probably make more sense but I got the feeling we really were supposed to root for the guy.

When he's not being a crazy person, he's really whiny. At first he's just "defending his work" and it almost seems noble (until you remember he's writing ads for stuff like premature ejaculation medicine and that nobility slips away). But then he does it again. And again. And again. Because EVERYONE is trying to change his work and HOW DARE THEY??? This usually means he ineffectually complains about this to a boss. Maybe because I never really understand his anger, he comes off as a petulant child instead of a genius creative whose vision is being destroyed.

The points above I might have been fine with if the story had been shorter. Or had a purpose. Or something. But the longer I read this the more I'm thinking "...yeah, and?" The novel is episodic I guess, but it's getting repetitive. Dane gets a job at an agency, does BRILLIANT work (his words), some evil co-worker destroys his work just to spite him, Dane whines, Dane leaves the job (or gets fired) and gets a new one, repeat at new agency. Other than the person he's arguing with and the medicine he's shilling, nothing is changing. And Dane isn't changing at all. There is no larger point where working towards. At first I was enjoying the book but the longer I read and the more the same stuff keeps happening, the less I want to pick it up.

Because I like to make sarcastic comments at my books, here's an exchange I had with a scene:

"Becky believed psychiatry was like watch repair." Oh, you mean how they should both be tackled my skilled professionals because they deal with a lot of small, interconnected pieces? "Trusting a stranger to fix something of value was the surest way to break it." Wait, what? No. OPPOSITE. I would destroy my watch if I even thought too long about trying to repair it myself. No, I think even more than psychological problems that watch repair is something people trust others with. Simile fail.

There's a good idea here and the writing kept me engaged until the plot quit being interesting. There are some funny moments that need fleshed out some more to really hit their mark. I described some of the scenes to Boyfriend+ and as I was saying them I was thinking "You know this sounds like a really funny scene. But there is no payoff." Oh and a part near the end, it just gets weird and comes out of no where. Had things gone differently there it might have been interesting but everything sorta wrapped itself up in a nice little bow and the whole thing could have been dropped.

One last thing, and this is probably not all that important but I feel the need to mention it. The cover is awful. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I know the author's daughter did it (it says so in the front) but I really did not like the cover and based on the cover alone I would pass by this book in a store. A few times I considered covering the book somehow. You know, like you'd cover a text book in grade school. I never did, but I thought about it pretty much every time I pulled the book out in public.

Title quote from page 168

I accepted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sonnenschein, Eric Jay. Ad Nomad: The Case Histories of Dane Bacchus. Hudson Heights Press, 2011.