Eric Raymond is a working writer in San Francisco. He attended Stetson University in DeLand and the Bennington Writing Seminars in Bennington, Vermont. Confessions from a Dark Wood is his first novel.
"[Confessions from a Dark Wood is] a rollicking and inventive corporate (and cultural) satire -- get in now at the ground floor, people."
"Smart as Saunders, tight as Ellis, but banking waters of its own, after this one we'll no longer 'forget they built the Magic Kingdom on swamps."
Oh man, do I love a good critical look at modern-day commercialism. These days, it feels like commercialism is bordering on becoming its own religion. There are almost way too many examples to pick out one… and in saying that, I am reminded of the consumerific world we have been living in for at least a decade. Read: overabundance. Categories for preexisting categories. Incremental improvements on a single piece of technology every six months, maybe sooner. The preference for exceedingly clever job titles like “VP of Client Strategy.” What happened to simply calling it “fantasy,” buying a piece of technology and using it for as long as it works; what happened to calling someone by their first name? We are living in such a world where we have so many choices that we are beginning to have trouble keeping track of what it means to be adequate.
It sort of feels like we’re in a deep haze, getting high off commercials, free samples, and the freedom to choose. I used to be able to say previous sentence as something positive; however, it is 2012 and it sure feels like it. Eric Raymond’s book, Confessions from a Dark Wood, is written and structured to meet the daunting standards of modern day readers. They want to be entertained; they want sentences that immediately grab them, with scenes that match what can be found in films. Thankfully, Raymond achieves the rare; he balances social commentary with a highly entertaining narrative full of humor, deceit, and, yeah, there’s even a little porn in there too.
I’m not going to talk too much about the book, but I do feel it’s necessary to explain the gist, the initial premise. Nick Bray, Dark Wood’s starring actor, is every bit like any other young male trying to make a go of it in New York. He’s poor, working a dead-end job, and has quickly faced the dreary fact that his “dreams” are DOA. This is his life, and he can’t be any more certain of it than he can the differences between the sex machines used at Purv, a fetish website he works for as video editor. When his father dies, Mr. P. J. LaBar enters his life and offers him a rebranding of sorts of the popular phrase, “an offer you can’t refuse.” Nick is desperate. He takes the offer. We all would. The results of his decision, well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
Raymond writes in prose that reminds me of the best Douglas Coupland has to offer (Generation X, Life After God, Player One) meshed with the pinpoint detail reminiscent of David Foster Wallace. The narrative functions as a high-wire narrative arc based on the impulsivity of a high-life fantasy. The back of the book, as well as throughout the its pages, Raymond uses the term “post-idea economy.” I love that term. It’s true. The global economy is the “post-idea economy.” Long gone are the days of disparate marketplaces functioning concurrently. Overabundance requires studios, agencies, and firms, like LaBar Partners Limited, to define items in a sprawling marketplace of the indefinable. Though the product might take on a tagline, title, and price-tag, it can no longer be “just a candy bar” or “just an energy drink.” It must be distinguishable. It must ensnarl our split-second attention spans.
Think about it: You could read this book, or you could simply go on Facebook and waste a few hours. For any book to gain an audience, it needs to be captivating enough to create a vacuum wherein all invading distractions are null and void.
Will this book do that for you? I can’t be sure, but it worked for me.
Hell of a read, I tell you.
I’ll confess I wrote this recommendation for two reasons: to praise a great book, and to get your attention. I’m sure you’d expect nothing less from a book recommendation. Read this book and realize that the more we try to speak of, and recommend, products, the more we are selling ourselves in hopes of being heard.