From the very first page, on which Manion quotes himself, this is one of the worst things a person can ever have the misfortune of being subjected to. These stories assault the reader’s IQ relentlessly until there is nothing left but a bloody pile of broken bones and torn flesh. One might literally feel the intelligence being sucked out of them while reading about two men arguing over whether the peanut is the preferred nut of the upper or the lower class, as in “Mr. Peanut.”
Manion’s writing style is infuriatingly absentminded throughout, his poorly written prose masquerading as proper literature:
“The point, of course, isn’t that this decision eventually caught up to this stupid fowl and directly led to its demise; it’s that ... sometimes ... well ... I forgot the point I was trying to make, but be assured that it would have made you stop and think a bit,” Manion wrote in “Advice From a Dodo.”
Manion gives writing a bad name. Novels are not personal diaries to distribute to unsuspecting civilians; they are adventures and worlds that are meant to tell a story and ultimately teach something. A good story takes the readers places, introduces them to people, and finally releases them with a new perspective and one more fond memory. Those who say “you only live once” have clearly never read a decent book. Chances are they read this one.
There is one decent tale to be found among the nonsense. “Killing a Bird” tells of the bluejay Manion killed with a BB gun in college, a story that has lived in his head ever since. There is some meaning to be found in perhaps the only two decent lines in the entire work: “No final chirp, no twitching. It fell like the dead thing it was. The dead thing I’d made it,” and “This fucking bird now lives in my head. He visits me when I get too happy or too full of myself. A ghost that lives in my stomach and his fluttering is felt as an ache.” This one recounting is actually thought-provoking and worth reading. Two glorious pages of sense in the barren wasteland that is “The Song Between Her Legs.”
Don’t bother with the whole thing. Look up “Killing a Bird” online and be done with Manion. His failed attempt at telling a story using nonsense is nothing more than a bad imitation of Lewis Carroll.
If you’re not angry with the author for wasting precious hours of your life after finishing this collection, you should be named a saint for your patience. Heck, if you can even reach the end they should name a religious school after you. Heaven knows I couldn’t make it.
Skylar Griego is a book reviewer and freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLobo .