Textual Healing by Eric Smith (Submission)
Genre: Fiction, humor, romance, indie, can this bookstore be real so I can work there?
Rating: 4.95 out of 5 stars
Summary: Once lauded author Andrew Connor hasn’t written anything in years. With his bookstore failing, his love life in shambles, and his novel on sale for 90% off he joins the writers support group Textual Healing. Enter his spunky new love interest who turns his life around. Featuring a haiku spouting flower shop owning ninja and a ravenous sugar glider, Eric Smith’s first novel is a MUST read.
Sometimes just reading a book isn’t enough. Sometimes I need a book that is about books. So it was with excitement that I sat down to read about author turned bookstore owner Andrew/Ace. From the very first page I had what I can only call a bibliogasm (a literary orgasm). This is because Eric Smith’s Textual Healing opens with a discussion about the smell of books. There is nothing like the smell of a well loved book, an antique book, a Harry Potter book (ask Stephanie- they have their own special smell). It was with this wonderful scent in my mind that I dove into Textual Healing. I also had a dog in my lap, but that’s not really relevant.
Narrator Ace was by far my favourite character. He’s funny, self-deprecating, and his inner thoughts are a joy to read. At one point he stumbles across his ex Daniela and her new boyfriend, Mr. Corporate America Richard (AKA Dick) and his inner monologue made me laugh out loud- and not in the way you type lol in a text message. In this hilarious moment, Ace rants inside his head, “Dick (I bet he hates being called that by his Wall Street buddies, him in his suit, his expensive Armani tie and Kenneth Cole shoes, listening to his iPod, nay, his Microsoft Zune, filled with horrible music, a non stop mix of Wham! and INXS)”. These hypothetical situations are the funniest parts of Ace, and he even goes so far as to imagine Daniela and Dick having sex in front of everyone in Starbucks, alternately coming to a mutual decision that she and Ace should get back together, and devolving into Dick finally confessing, “I am attracted to small children”.
The strangest character and therefore the most fun is Brave Orchid, who owns the flower shop across from Ace’s bookstore. She dresses like a ninja, has a penchant for kicking invisible enemies, and speaks in the 5-7-5 format of haikus. She even holds an extended grudge against a customer who happened to come across her dressed like a pirate on Halloween (because the internet has taught us that pirates and ninjas are mortal enemies- perhaps more so than Jedi and Klingons). No, her character doesn’t make much sense, but it’s this hyper ridiculous reality that makes Textual Healing so much fun.
The scenes which I found to be the most enjoyable, besides the ones set in Ace’s bookstore are at the writers’ support group Textual Healing, which is run like an AA meeting but with less alcohol dependency. Or so I assume. Led by romance writer and extremely hot lesbian Stephanie, Textual Healings purpose is “helping writers, write again”. The group is home to Jeffrey Foster (sounds like Geoffrey Chaucer) whose second novel was a flop and was broken by the criticism, Andrea who is cursed with a horrible jacket photo, and John Landers, an ex indie rock star who can’t seem to get his kids books off the ground. We later learn that for some reason no one wants to publish his illustrated moral tales entitled Snowy Gets an Abortion and Fluffy’s First Hate Crime, which feature adorable bunnies holding coat hangers and being racist.
What’s really fun about this novel is how contemporary and peppered with popular culture references it is. I smiled through mentions of Joel Schumacher and his decision to put nipples on the Batman suit, the name dropping of Henry Rollins and Interpol, Route 22, “Thundercats”, Kill Bill, Converse, and Yager. There was even a reference to WinAmp. WINAMP! (I’m pretty sure my WinAmp skin was Sango from “InuYasha” because I’m a nerd like that.)
There are also as expected literary references, from making fun of books with movie covers as being blasphemous (I too won’t buy movie cover books and once spent a summer trying to find Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned without Aaliyah on the front) to jokes about book store patrons. While in one of many B&Ns throughout the novel, Ace thinks, “I’ve come to realize that no matter the cafe, there’s always a kid in the corner reading Vonnegut”.
I felt a connection to the characters when they talked about David Sedaris, Chuck Palahniuk, Nick Hornby, H.G. Wells, and Ray Bradbury. These references worked two-fold: they put joy in my heart each time I recognized a beloved author, and it fully fleshed out the characters that Smith created. To me, they are real.
-Literary and popular culture references abound, this guy has damn good taste
-Not your typical romantic comedy (characters are real and do not merely vomit rainbows)
-Narrator is self-deprecating, witty, and prone to amusing hypothetical situations
-A new literary voice, one that I hope to read a lot more from
-Learned fun new words = authorphiliac, pulchritudinous, ambulani
-Wholly fleshes out characters, from the shy sexy book nerd to the OCD virgin who talks like a nymphomaniac
-Slightly predictable, but no less satisfying and enjoyable ending
-Michael Keaton is a WAY BETTER Batman than Christian Bale
I cannot recommend this book enough, and I highly recommend we all keep on Eric Smith and make sure he writes a second book, or he will face a Textual Healing meeting of his own.