So, recently, Jeff Strand, who, as many of you might know, is my favourite writer of all time, of ALL time, made this terrific offer of getting his new novel Kumquat as a preview, for free, and the only thing I had to do in return is consider saying something nice about it on the internet, which, of course, I would have done anyway, so I volunteered, and he sent me the file, and I read it, and …
It’s a story about a guy, ordinary guy, not very ambitious, kind of a slacker, really, but very nice, smart, funny, you get the picture, who meets a very special woman, finds out she’s going to die from an aneurysm, possibly soon, falls in love with her, and they decide to take a trip to a hot dog stand very far away.
I’d go into more detail, but I don’t know how much I’m allowed to tell you, so I’ll limit myself to this short summary. Also, there’s really not much more to tell, because … well …
Do you know that feeling of listening to a podcast by people you really like? You don’t particularly care if they talk about interesting stuff or if they convey relevant information or say particularly smart things, but they’re reasonably funny, and you like them, so you enjoy listening to them, but if someone else would ask you, you probably wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend the podcast, because … well, you might even feel a little embarrassed, because deep down, you know there’s not a lot worth recommending?
That’s Kumquat for me.
Not a lot happens in this book, at least not a lot that’s interesting, and while I found some humor in being led on to expect some big development again and again, only to find it resolved two pages later, this started grating after a while, and the end was a complete disappointment to me. Yes. Still. I read the whole book and was still disappointed in the end. I still thought he might turn this around and give me something great. That’s how much I love Jeff Strand, and that’s how much I trust him. Goes to show what a great idea trust is.
Oh, but wait, there’s one thing that I wholewheartedly loved about Kumquat. It’s this quote:
The only reason people eat escargot is because it’s socially unacceptable to just drink a cup of garlic butter.
That quote alone was worth the time. To me, at least. It’s pure genius in its simplicity and truth. So that’s something.
But talking about quotes, I just need to mention the Exit Red quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Exit Red is a fictitious SF series which both protagonists consider the greatest thing since the separation of heaven and earth and follow religiously. It’s kind of important to the plot, for certain values of “plot”.
“Infinity is a hell of a long time to live with regrets”
“I think you mean eternity.”
–Exit Red, Season 6, Episode 6
I learned to hate those, although I have to admit, this might just be my thing, although I don’t think they were particularly entertaining, but mostly it’s because I hate this tumblresque hyping of TV series (even fake ones), I don’t have any rational argument against it, it’s completely alright, and I realize I should be glad that other people find joy in their fandom, but I can’t help it, it simply makes my blood boil. It might be because of Breaking Bad. Because I hate Breaking Bad. I fucking hate it. So much. Wait. This doesn’t have anything to do with Kumquat anymore, does it? I’ll resume talking about Kumquat now. Sorry for this.
So, here’s what I have to say, in a nutshell: I love Jeff Strand’s style. I love his humor. I love how all his characters share that sort of humor, and how their dialogue and their actions reflect this. And if you love all of that as well, then by all means, buy Kumquat. But if all this is true for you, you’d have bought it anyway. If you’re not yet a fan, first: What’s wrong with you, moron? And second: Please buy another one. Buy Dweller. It’s a wonderful, funny, bizarre, sad, surprisingly touching, wonderful, extremely wise story about friendship with a monster, romance, and probably life in general, all rolled in one. Or buy Wolf Hunt, it’s quite possibly the best werewolf story ever written. And if not that, it’s the funniest, for sure. And then, once you are a fan … you’re going to buy this book, and maybe then you can come back here and tell me what’s great about it, and what I missed. I hope you’re going to like it more than I could. I hope you’ll give it the love and understanding it needs and quite possibly deserves, but I was unable to give. I’m sorry, Kumquat. I’m sorry, Jeff. I let you down. But we’re still friends, right? Still meant for each other, right?