Book Review

Dinosaur by Adam Lock

an intriguing text, tho a last chapter I hated

cw: suicide ideation, depression, body image

This is one of those books that I read a tweet-length description of and immediately ordered. By a “tweet-length description of”, I mean a tweet. I don’t really read any other websites.

Online, I read Twitter and occasionally I reread my own blog, which is what led to the anguish and explosion of despair in my last post.

///

I have woken up today with a sore throat.

It’s my day off today and I slept for almost ten hours, which is an insane amount of time for me. Daylight Savings Time kicked in two nights ago here, and those extra hours abed looked even more shocking with another hour added to their total.

It’s fine, though, as I am definitely a little ill. Maybe it’s coronavirus. Maybe it’s Covid-19.

Maybe this is my chance to – aside from all the mental health stuff which it is definitely not a totally unique idea – have an interesting perspective to write poetry from? I doubt it. If everyone gets coronavirus, if everyone gets COVID-19, then it’s basically the same as no one having it, in terms of literary niche.

There has to be a level of knownness for a topic to pique a reader’s interest, right, but it can’t be too quotidian or it won’t hold their interest. Of course, there are exceptions, but being able to write of the everyday while making it engaging is the mark of a truly skilled writer, which I lolololol am not.

I can’t even write about being bald any more because I’ve been bald so long that being bald and my age isn’t even interesting.

I wish I wasn’t bald. I wish I wasn’t at all, to be honest.

Christ christ christ.

This evening I will make a big vegetable lasagna. What a dull fucking little life. I go to Mexico City six weeks tonight. So, I suppose, that’s something to look forward to. Genuinely annoyed, though, about the coronavirus-inspired delay to the release of the new James Bond film, which is another dull lame thought and feeling I’ve had recently.

My therapist has requested I keep a “diary of pleasant events” over the next week. Whenever they happen, though, they’re all so fucking shite and meaningless that writing them down, seeing them all together, paints only a portrait of my pointlessness, the emptiness and uninspiring nature of my current life.

I am bored and I am boring myself. I am tired because of this dull fucking medication and if I have to feel present in this dull as fuck fucking existence then I’d rather be pleasant and able to be productive. Eurgh.

I wish I’d burn up in a fire. I wish I’d die in my sleep. I wish I’d just drown drown drown by accident. I wish the water supply would get poisoned. I wish bad terrorism happens and I’m destroyed. I wish I could be dead without having to make the effort. I’m tired. I’m too old. In centuries past, I’d probably be dead by this age. I wish I was dead by this age.

bored bored bored bored bored bored bored

///

Yesterday was a sunny day and the temperature was – for the first time in a while – in double digits. I decided to walk with Cubby along the shore of Lake Ontario down past the Humber River and into Mimico, the next town. Technically it is the next town, but other than the not-massive river that marks the formal barrier between Toronto and Etobicoke, there is no gap in the conurbation.

On this walk I read the latter few chapters of the earth-shatteringly perfect novel, Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) and then I read this “novella in flash” by Adam Lock. It is called Dinosaur, and after reading the flash fiction collection How the Light Gets In by Clare Fisher (Influx Press, 2018), I’ve had a gentle interest in the form.

I like short story collections that contain links and loops and revelations in other parts of the book that tie into previous stories; I like short story collections that offer narrative, thematic and character-based links between the various chapters. I like short story collections that feel like a cohesive package. I don’t like short story collections that feel like the contents of a notebook (or a hard drive, or a Google Drive folder, whatever) turned upside down and dumped into a book.

I don’t like book-shaped text collections that aren’t a single work; or don’t have some kind of internal connection more focused than “all written by same writer in same two year period”. This idea collapses when I am reading the text of a writer now dead.

Death – or other circumstances outside of the text that otherwise prevent continued creation (e.g. internment, ill health etc) – can give a collection a narrative cohesion that is lacking from the writing within. I’m not quite certain what or who I’m thinking of when I say this.

Anyway.

Dinosaur isn’t quite as much about dinosaurs as I had expected when I saw the title, but it is a collection of short pieces that combine to create a coherent whole, which I like.

The pieces alternate between a focus on two characters: Rebecca and Erik. In vignettes from throughout their lives, Adam Lock presents his characters growing from childhood to middle age. Lock describes Rebecca and Erik’s first experiences of grief and of love, bad early relationships and good early relationships; there are marriages and affairs and divorces and reconciliations, and there is also the brief series of interactions that link the two characters. For a period, they are together as lovers, but not forever. Life gets in the way of their love, though it doesn’t necessarily get in the way of love per se.

There is a simplicity to Lock’s writing that is engaging and unpretentious. These “flashes” are – sometimes – not necessarily pieces of writing that would work without the characterisation of the surrounding pages of Dinosaur, but plenty of them very much would. Here, Lock’s stories are chapters of a novella, but taken out of this context, many of the pieces are powerful stories in their own right, which is nice to see.

The final story in the book is an uninspired piece of metafiction where Rebecca tells her new boyfriend, Adam – “a writer” – all about her affair with Erik, and Adam promises to write it all down.

There is no need for this, and it kinda invites attention towards flaws within the rest of the book.

Realism – as it is the “standard” literary mode and has been for almost two hundred years – doesn’t draw attention to its own form, whereas a tiny bit of “inserting the writer into the text” immediately draws to mind the [big] handful of other novels where that happens, and how there’s a reason why those are books I read over a decade ago and they are not books I continue to read now.

Don’t misinterpret me: I’m as tired of the realist novel as everyone else, but I don’t think the “author as minor character who promises to tell the story” is a trope worth resurrecting. A present narrator is a different thing: that is an aesthetic choice, not a “twist” or a gag.

It pissed me off, that last chapter.

Still, anger isn’t bleak depression, and feeling something is better than feeling nothing so, oh well, on we gooooooooooooooooooo.

///

To clarify, I did like it, I just didn’t like the last chapter.

ORDER DINOSAUR DIRECT FROM ELLIPSISZINE.COM


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Order my raucous poetry collection via Open Pen.

Order my sad prose chapbook via Selcouth Station Press.


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