Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mr. Peanut: A Book Review

By Ginny Padgett

I must say Adam Ross’s Mr. Peanut goes against all the advice from experts we aspiring writers hear for crafting a first-time novel, and I am hopping mad. I want to know who Ross had to sleep with to get this trash to market and reviewed by the New York Times.

Here’s the list of some of the transgressions I noticed:

• Two stories told side-by-side and then too conveniently dovetailed by an unbelievable turn of events. (The implausible storyline includes Dr. Sam Shepherd, whose wife was murdered, a real case from 1954. He was convicted for the crime, went to jail for ten years and was then released, all the while maintaining his innocence. In Mr. Peanut, when released from prison, Shepherd becomes a police detective and is assigned to investigate the suicide, or possible murder, of the wife of David Pepin, one of Ross’s main characters. The Shepherd and Pepin murder stories are juxtaposed for our enlightenment or entertainment.)
• Rambling descriptions of Hawaiian terrain, climbing a mountain, convoluted feelings, etc., go on for pages and halt the forward progress of both stories.
• A flashback at the end of the novel that sheds no insight into characters or events is so lengthy it becomes a mini-chapter…just hanging there.
• The Mobius strip, a mathematical object of optical illusion, is mentioned ad nauseam as an element in works of art; is the basis of one of David Pepin’s video games he is developing for a flourishing market; and is the name of the private detective hired by Mr. Pepin. I enjoy symbolism, but this use struck me as overkill. In addition, Mr. Peanut, the Planter’s Nuts icon, and the actual nut also carry significant weight as symbols throughout both stories. I felt like I was being hit over the head with the hammer of Mr. Ross’s less than subtle images.

On top of all these annoyances, this is the most misogynistic piece of ‘literature’ I have ever read. If one is to suspend belief to buy into this story, the reality is all men fantasize, dream, plot, and sometimes carry out the murder of their wives.

The New York Times reviewer wrote this about Mr. Peanut, “…story that reads like a postmodern mash-up of Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and one of James M. Cain’s noirish mysteries.

How can this “…dark, dazzling and deeply flawed novel that announces the debut of an enormously talented writer” get published? Maybe I could understand it better if this were the fourth or fifth book from an established author.

Mr. Peanut seems to prove my theory that all you need to become a successfully published, well regarded, best-selling author is a good publicist. I regret I wasted my time reading this collection of words. I hope Adam Ross will renew his prescription for ADD medication before he attempts another book.


Monette said...

Why don't you tell us how you really feel about the book? :)I too think that for the most part, "best seller" just means best publicized.

Mark Markai said...

is that a joke? who made up these rules that they teach you? be angry at them.