Nobody with a minimum amount of common sense would ever consider neither one of these books Ablutions (Patrick DeWitt, 2009) and Love Me Back (Merritt Tierce, 2014) as inspirational. On the other hand, what anybody can easily see is that when it comes to writing fiction, these two know pretty damn well what they are doing. In fact, it is really hard to believe that we are talking about a couple of debut novels.
by Patrick deWitt
Mariner Books, 2010
Love Me Back
by Merritt Tierce
So they are not inspirational but they are honest; brutally honest like those truths we would have been better off not knowing anything about. That’s exactly their offer: all the truth. An “all in” bet. Nothing is saved or hidden from the public. No unnecessary acts of puritanism or false decency.
All of which prompts me at this point to warn you that, depending on how sensitive or prone to be shocked by certain behaviors you think you are, you may want to stop reading this review right here and ignore for the rest of your life any comments or recommendations about these two books.
Still with us? Intrigued? Well, good for you, because these novels are amazing even if they are far from being a comforting read. No amount of funny stories and witty jokes will make them go down easy. Not even when you turn the last page and you are (supposedly) done with them.
Patrick and Merritt, take the reader around the daily routines of the protagonists in the service industry as they struggle to ascertain whether they belong to the business (and if they don’t, where then?). The first one takes place in a decadent, obscure and probably smelly dive in Hollywood and the second one in an upscale steakhouse in Dallas.
As you get immersed in the stories you realize there is nothing special or abnormal about these pretty normal and ordinary guys. You understand that either one of them could be the one fixing your drink or serving your entrée at your favorite watering hole or restaurant every day.
The thing is that throughout this tour we are not spared any detail no matter how questionable or unmoral or shameful or even illegal these might be. And that’s not necessarily what we are used to these days. We’ve grown accustomed to see every other disgrace happen in a distant place and to conveniently switch channels to prevent them from ruining our days.
We are good with that and there is no need to feel bad about it. It is just what it takes to move on. So, in this current state of affairs, it is inevitable for closer and private disgraces to remain ignored. That’s the fate for example of the regular folks you come across with on your everyday life fighting their own inner wars and whose lows do not get televised.
However, in Ablutions and Love me Back, the lows of these guys are getting televised or, in this case, narrated to you. And, believe me, their lows will get pretty low. So quite soon you are reminded that certain wars do not take place in remote countries even when they can be equally destructive.
And it’s not that you will be constantly looking into Patrick or Merritt eyes (or more precisely, their alter egos’) after closing these books but it will take some time before you stop wondering about what lies behind the eyes of every server you come across with.
There are other writers and other books that tried to expose the part of the population that sits on this other side of the bar to whatever that goes on in that world. However, these two young writers in addition to a solid story to tell and a clear understanding of how it needs to be unfolded, have also done a great job at getting the reader into their shoes and making you feel their same contradictions, which is basically what authenticity is supposed to mean. And if that’s not enough, they do all this while being screamingly hilarious.
As far as the uplifting side of these books, well, we cannot deny that they do raise some deep questions. As we cannot deny either that they represent a good example of how close one can get to the edge of the cliff and still be able to run away from it.
So after a second look at the question, yes, each one of these two brilliant and splendidly fresh novels works as a good and inspirational story for those struggling with their places in their daily lives.
Paco Vique is a civil engineer, poet, writer, voracious reader, radio enthusiast and co-founder with Javier García del Moral of The Wild Detectives.