From debut author McEldowney comes a novel about the internal struggles of a young artist.
When readers first meet the narrator, a visual artist who remains nameless, he’s having a hard time sleeping in his apartment: “As I lay here awake, I watch the shadows dart from corner to corner, trying to hide from my periphery.” Seeking solace at the local laundromat, he finds an attractive girl with whom he manages to strike up a conversation, despite the fact that he’s “not exactly good with women, or even people for that matter.” As their casual chat opens the door to a date, things seem to be going reasonably well for the narrator. Back at his apartment, a talking jackalope mask named Jack offers him life advice (such as, “Enjoying yourself is important and accepting the oddities around you can be a good step in broadening your mind’s horizons and perspective”), and although the narrator continues to battle sleep-related issues, he’s still able to complete an art project. Jack provides a source of positive thinking, but a creeping force known as the Entity provides just the opposite: “Dark and deep, crackling and warped, detractive in tone,” it enjoys nothing more than filling the narrator with dismay. Will the narrator, along with Jack the mask, be able to salvage his creativity from such discord? And what of that laundromat girl with her eyes of “crystal blue stained glass”? Brief at just over 100 pages, this tale of angst and confusion moves along quickly. Some details, such as who orders what on restaurant dates (“I think I’m going to get the manicotti,” the girl explains), do little for the story’s progress. However, these tidbits fade away quickly in the prevailing dust storm of malcontent. Overall, the book offers an empathetic journey for creative types who can relate to the narrator’s moments of doubt and self-criticism; his quest is clearly fantastical, though not improbable. Although portions of the novel may strike some readers as melodramatic (such as when images flash in the narrator’s mind of “dark, macabre things, faces, skulls and webs gnarled all in blackness”), the theme of frustration is well-played.
A swift look at the internal struggles of one particularly unbalanced artist.