This is a book I was sent from a stranger on the internet, not something I chose for myself and as such I am giving it the promotional honour/curse of a full-length post all to itself. Maybe. Dunno. I’ll probably digress.
When people offer me books, I always say “yes”.
I probably shouldn’t, as often the books that request “reviews” from me – a bald poet with a personality disorder, two degrees, no assets and a very cute dog – tend to not have not considered any of those factors.
I have a few more unsolicited books that I plan to read this year, as I’m trying to limit my book acquiring, which is very easy to do while the bookstores here remain closed, quite rightly, as non-essential retail.
This means that I will finally be plumbing the depths of the weird historical fiction, strange erotica and bizarre novels in verse that I, like so many books, carted from Islington luxury to the Docklands misery to my parents’ garage in the West Midlands to a tiny room just off Barcelona’s Plaça de la Universitat, back to Worcestershire, then to a freight terminal at Birmingham Airport and from the customs facilities at Toronto Pearson airport to the grubby apartment block I sleep in here, now, in Toronto.
When I eventually reverse Dick Whittington my way back across the Atlantic, I don’t want to take with me unread books that I don’t want to read or read books that I didn’t like. I mean, I say that, but it’s perfectly possible that even books such as [insert example of self-published erotica I’ve been sent], Walthamstow Central by Ellis Sharp and this – Lake of Urine by Guillermo Stitch – will find their way back to Europe with li’l bald me and end up shifted from cheap short term rental to cheap short term rental, especially if I fail to bounce out of the COVID-19 pandemic with the previous momentum I’d been building up post the shitshow of my twenties. Who knows what is to come? I don’t.
It’s freeing, actually, writing a TriumphoftheNow.com post like a proper, pre-2021 TriumphoftheNow.com post. I’m not trying to fake being interesting or interested, I’m not pretending to myself or my readers lol that this blog is a literary resort. It isn’t: it’s a place for me to millennially moan about my own mistakes and millennially mope about my fears for the future.
I’m always less infused with myself and my life when I’m not reading a book I think is fundamentally phenomenal. Having come out of a three book run of old books about Romans (blog post tbd), I should have known to give myself something I thought I’d like. I took a risk with this one.
I presumed, from the day the book arrived, that it would be pisspoor (pun intended), but when I saw Lake of Urine receiving positive reviews in like proper newspapers and stuff (ones which have never reviewed even the successful people without serious mental health problems who’ve been published by any of my publishers, publishers who take much more care with the aesthetics of their books), I thought maybe it could subvert my expectations and I’d love it.
I didn’t love it.
I worry, sometimes, that now I’m a proper indie writer with a proper little portfolio of proper little books, that I should do the thing most other people in that situation do and start only giving gushing praise or stony silence w/r/t any other indie writer.
If I had picked this book up in a shop and bought it because I thought I’d enjoy it, then not enjoying it would be my fault, unless it was properly shit (which tbf Lake of Urine isn’t quite), but as a book that I have been persistently asked to comment on, I feel like my disavowal of it is fully justified.
I knew I wouldn’t like this book not from its cover, but from its size.
The book is the wrong size.
It’s too big.
It’s the height of a hardback but nowhere near the length. It’s unwieldy and too big for all but absolutely massive coat pockets. Key point: books should fit in pockets, like phones: there’s a reason the personal mobile telephone is not the size of a hardback book, and there’s a reason why during the most popular (tho maybe not most lucrative) period of paperback publishing, all the books were fucking small enough to fit in an average pocket and/or small handbag.
Lake of Urine is just not my kinda fucking thing at all.
It’s silly. It’s absurd. It is written in a relentless kind of nonstop style that I found deeply irritating: there is no variance in pace and it wasn’t a pace I liked.
The plot was – intentionally – nonsensical and unrealistic, and there was magic and sudden elevation to positions of global power and fame and then return to previous lives and locations with no repercussions; there’s a middle-aged woman who’s had nine husbands who goes round wanking off (alternately referred to as “milking” and “juicing” which, as a prurient person, I did enjoy) every man she meets. There’s a character who speaks every line of dialogue in a different language. There are new characters and situations in basically every chapter/section and there are lots and lots and lots of chapters/sections.
It’s relentless, but for me it meant that there was no real moment to grasp the significance or complexity of any characters… Stitch could claim his characters are complex, but rather than that I believe they are inconsistent.
I found Lake of Urine annoying.
It annoyed me.
The size of the book annoyed me and the text itself annoyed me.
I still feel – immaturely, perhaps – a compulsion to finish reading every book I begin, and this one really made me regret that.
I felt bored by the idea of picking it up again, bored by the idea of having to spend time on another calendar day reading it and I also felt ashamed carrying around a book of a weird size with a crass title. I don’t mind crassness, and I’m happy to hold my hands up and take ownership of my enjoyment of – and my production of – crassness (see any of my published works), but I don’t want to take ownership of a crassness I don’t enjoy.
Literature should challenge and emote and evoke and amuse and upset and interrogate, and maybe for some readers Lake of Urine does at least one of those, because its continual flux and change and variety is inarguably creative.
For me, though, this isn’t a kind of creativity that I think holds much weight: Lake of Urine goes nowhere near near the layered discussions of life itself that, I believe, are the cornerstones of valid art. Also I think it was meant to be funny but it didn’t make me laugh.
Maybe it just wasn’t my sense of humour. Maybe I wasn’t “intelligent” enough to “get it”. Whatever happened, I didn’t like it.
And – and I cannot stress this enough – the physical book was the wrong size.
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