Barf: "I am my own betrayal"
In this edition of Katie Got Bookz, I will be reviewing a book of short stories and poems that I received from one of our nation’s most romanticized destinations: Montreal. It’s called I am my own betrayal and it was written by a dude named Guillaume Morissette. Let’s get it out of the way now: that is a terrible title and you should never have called your book that. Right away it conjures up an over-anxious wiendawg with mock self-loathing who actually just doesn’t know how to drink a beer. Upon completion of this book I have to say, you played right into my delicately tapered, moisturized albeit grubby, hands.
Guillaume, what is happening with this thing?
I’ve noted we are both alumni of the same writing program, so I’m gonna do what somebody in one of those workshops that I know you took should have done: give you an honest critique, instead of pandering to your professor while politely waiting to share their own poems with the group.
Everything in this book reads like something you wrote at 4am, wasted, after last call because you were up for critique the next day. It is so lazy. Even the way you form sentences is lazy. You capitalize the first letter and then nothing afterward and do not tell me this was done for style! It’s sloppy, and it transfers a deep sense of boredom with the subject matter that you have decided to write about—which doesn’t have a lot going for it in the first place, my man—directly to the reader. Why do I want to drag my eyeballs along something I feel like you wrote half-sitting on your chair, half on the floor, with a spent cigarette burning down forever in a styrofoam take-out container from The Main. Sorry it was such a fucking chore for you to write a book, but why are you taking it out on me?
But moving on, what I can tell is the first short story in the book is about you (not you, but yeah, it’s you) emailing with a girl about how you both are miserable and how much everyone else sucks. You like her but you are too much of a baby to say that so instead, you complain about the other women you’re sleeping with (“Last night I had uninspired sex with a person and I am seeing the person again on thursday”). Eventually you and your e-crush end up somewhere, probably a shitty afterparty on Van Horne, you sleep together, and then she stops emailing you probably because she realized what a Grade-A narbo you are.
Then you throw in some bad poems.
The second story is about you (not you, but yeah, it’s you) going from Montreal to where your Mom lives and meeting up with your brother who you like, but don’t like, because he is not as intellectually advanced as you since he goes to Bed, Bath and Beyond on the weekends with his girlfriend. You go to a bar and you are sad since you got dumped recently, and on the walk home your brother and you pass the house you used to live in as children and you decide to BREAK IN THROUGH A WINDOW, and your poor brother comes in to get you and you both end up REARRANGING THE LIVING ROOM to what it was like when you lived there.
After that, the book treats the reader to some more bad poems.
The third story is about some people working at a tech startup designing an app that’s a game about a giraffe that wears cowboy hats. You do that terrible thing where you name a character a “funny trait” so their boss is only referred to as “sad beagle producer.”
Once the giraffe app chronicle is through, it’s time for more bad poems.
The fourth story is about an online gamer and his online game friends coming to town, and they decide to meet up and go to their first party and drink their first beers.
Then Guillaume hits us with some more bad poems.
The last story is interesting, at least in its perspective which shifts between four friends (are they friends though G? Because they all seem to hate each other or just get drunk together which, fair enough, Montreal), hanging out one night. They were drunk at a party and go to someone’s house to watch a movie. One guy likes one girl, who likes the other guy, and the last girl likes the idea of the guy, who likes the first girl. There’s Facebook chat involved, which isn’t where you initially lost me, but it is where you lost me for good.
Since you were so lazy about this book, I’m just going to copy some lines from a few of your poems here that I have consistently described as bad, because I've already given your book more attention than you ever did:
-I have girly arms and I mean it/one time I wore a nice shirt and looked stupid in it.
-exclusive is just another word for lonely./my penis is exclusive./my penis is just another word for lonely.
-I love being retweeted by a stranger more than I love myself.
-all samosas look extremely handicapped.
-let me state how hot you are: very.
I read this book in two, one-hour sittings and was struck with such all-encompassing anxiety that seemed to be reverberating out from my core, followed by confusion—because I’d always considered emotional transference from a text to be indicative of good writing. Upon further reflection, I realized you just tapped into the feeling of what it’s like to be hungover and living in Montreal, always kind of cold, sick of everybody, buying 40s of Max Ice from the dep at 10:58pm in your pajamas, in a state of being unsure of what you are doing that night or any night after. So yes, you gave me some flourishes, or at the very least caused some of my synapses to fire (aka “have a memory”), but fuck man, at least when I was there doing that I was also having fun.
Memoir style writing, and using that genre is a bit of a stretch here, is inherently introspective. That’s a given. But this lazy, woe is me, whiney perspective, male or female (though in this case the glaringly problematic male perspective) shines through like a billion watt, gross, blacklight bulb. It’s got to stop. How entitled can you be, for one, to think your redundant experiences or the failure to interact sincerely with the people around you warrants a short story, let alone enough short stories to necessitate a book? If you're alienating your reader with your own emotional experience, when your book is supposed to be based on emotional experience, you're doing it wrong.
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