Balls and Instincts: "Two Things Money Can't Buy and You Can't Teach"

by: Michael Drosdowich

Isn't the Internet a fascinating intelligence?

There are people I know whom I've never met, and books I've read that aren't in print. There are shouting matches that are silent, and voyages around the world taken via cell phone.

This book is one of these odd creatures: a self-published electronic book (or paperback, if you prefer), the author is an acquaintance I've never met face to face. Letting it be known than I'd edited a book or two, I was challenged to read this one, though it was too late to truly edit.

As I dug in, I immediately started making line edits in my mind: "Aint needs an apostrophe. He's changing tense from present to past and back to present - gotta fix that. The narrator is preposterously lucky and/or talented: he falls into a business-cum-romantic relationship with Hawaiian royalty? Impossible."

Somewhere along Chapter 4 (each chapter has a title, which I have to admit I enjoy - it's a carry-over from novels I read as a child, and I like the hint of what the chapter will contain), I stopped critiquing and found myself just riding along with the wave of the narrative.

Which is not to say that the book is all those hackneyed descriptives: "a page turner," "can't put it down," "was completely carried away in prose...."

No, it's more like it is Itself and Nothing Else, and after a while, you stop fighting for it to be another book written to a formula, and according to the rules of grammar and story arcs and character development, and you simply allow it to take over and lead you where it will: drugs, deals, thugs, who-is-the-good-guy?, graphic "love" scenes (ok, more like the S-word writ large), murders, mayhem, and mischief.

The biggest question I had is: it's written in the first person as if it's a memoir, but it's also hard to believe anyone would acknowledge the kinds of activities the main character engages in. My guess - though at some point I stopped caring whether it was "real" or "make believe" or somewhere in between - is the author knows whereof he speaks, but perhaps more as an observer than a participant.

But as noted, ultimately it isn't important. More interestingly, I found myself second guessing my line editing: perhaps this book, to be what it is, is written exactly as it should be: rough, wrong, direct, sometimes even deep. It's written in the voice of an original, and that's what makes it readable and fun. The narrator isn't going for poetry or the perfect word; rather it's the drive forward that carries the novel. "I got up and did this and went here and did that and ate this and met her..." all at a relentless pace that simply keeps you moving with it.

One of the things I dearly loved about Ira Levin's writing in "Rosemary's Baby" was the detail: what they ate, how something smelled or felt or looked, the ordinary details of the day-to-day life of the characters. It built suspense and made the unbelievable believable. If they weren't so ordinary, who'd believe witches in an apartment in New York City could be breeding the Child of the Devil?

So with this book, if I weren't getting the details of how an Hawaiian cook learns how to make proper Italian meatballs, how would I believe our hero just stumbles into dealing serious drugs simply because he won't back down from a fight? That is, the ordinary details lure you into the extraordinary story line without too much resistance.

And thus my final conclusion that the grammar and the plot line and the other details of "cleanup" on this book should simply be avoided here. Why would you rewrite a story written for a child by a child? It's exactly as it should be. In this book, we're being told a story of a way of life by someone living that life - or at least, the writer has adopted that voice successfully - and therein lies the enjoyment of his story. If it were perfectly punctuated and artfully written, it would be just another thriller. This book is something else.


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