Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Corey Redekop's "Shelf Monkey"

Corey Redekop's new novel is Shelf Monkey.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to the book and reported the following:
It’s a strange coincidence, I’m sure, but page 99 is precisely where the offbeat nature of the plot of Shelf Monkey becomes apparent.

After 98 pages of exposition and character development (read: the boring stuff), my characters gather around a bonfire, and the leader intones:

“Do we have any montages for the fire this evening?”

This one statement reveals the true nature of the Shelf Monkeys; they are a book club that meets to discuss works of literature, and choose the ones they deem undeserving of life. After an introduction of the participants, all of whom have adopted a persona based on their favourite literary characters, the festivities begin:

Ignatius pulled a large hardcover from his backpack. “Well, this,” he said, showing the book to the group, “is a new one from Terry Pratchett.” A collective gasp shot out. Not Pratchett! “Hey, hey,” he sputtered apologetically, noticing a visibly angered Warren. “I love the guy, too, but he’s just stretching out this Discworld crap too far. It just came out, called
Monstrous Regiment. I think he must have written it in his sleep or something, it’s really thin. He’s relying on his name to sell the thing. The nerds’ll gobble it up. I’d like to nominate it, please.”

“Has anyone else read the accused?” Aubrey asked. The Monkeys looked at each other expectantly. No one volunteered. “Alright then. May I have a volunteer to read it?”

“Aw, Aubrey,” said Ignatius. “I never get to burn anything, c’mon!”

“The rules, Ignatius, must be obeyed. No montag unless read and seconded. Anyone? Kilgore? Scout?”

“Hey, don’t look at me!” exclaimed a slight woman, Scout. She mimed spitting something bitter onto the ground. “I like Pratchett and everything, but I’m still trying to get the taste of that Andrew Greeley out of mouth from a month ago.”

These ‘montags’ (based on Bradbury’s hero in Fahrenheit 451) are then consigned to the flames of a bonfire, while the acolytes sway, moan, and generally get off on it.

While I wrote Shelf Monkey to a) make myself laugh, and b) exorcise my personal hatreds through writing, there evolved from my rants a peculiarly pointed satire of mob mentality, as well as a few side-swipes at fundamentalism of all sorts. At this point, the cult is fairly harmless, but as they begin to take themselves too seriously, their lives invariably descend into a morass of paranoia against all those they view as the enemy. I never intended there to be such a parallel to certain current events, but as many people have noted, that’s just the way it turned out.
Read more about the novel and author at the Shelf Monkey blog and listen to podcasts of two excerpts.

--Marshal Zeringue