Charles Spectrum, writing under the nom de plume of “Daniel Waterstone” who in turn writes under the pen name of “Dermot Davis” has produced the self-help book to end all self-help books.
The romp (in the Merriam Webster sense of the word) begins with personna Daniel Waterstone, “the recipient of the prestigious Marcus and Imelda Rogerspoon award for the student showing the brightest promise for a future literary career.” Then, instead of having the decorum to sit down and shut up, Daniel demonstrates his oratory acumen to tell the audience that:
“We are living in dangerous times,” he then said, pausing, for dramatic effect. “Having progressed through the age of reason and enlightenment, civilization is now poised to enter the age of insanity. I tell you, in no uncertain terms that what we are currently witnessing, at least here, in the West, is the decline of culture itself.”
Aside from a few typographical errors (which may be intentional for all we know), this book successfully entertains in all environs from a noisy city bus to the quiet contemplation of a reading room.
We were reminded of Charlotte Bronte “Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonised as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.”
Should you, Gentle Reader, have the misfortune to know well a genuine novelist, then you will instantly recognize the wellspring of angst penned by Daniel Waterstone.
“Do I write what the market wants? Do I write something… that will sell? What is the market buying these days?” he asked, desperation making him look unattractive and pathetic. [as his avaricious and duplicitous agent Suzanne roars off in her late-model convertible, leaving Daniel in the dust]
Waterstone has by now authored several novels of quality, containing truth, light and beauty which have been soundly and roundly rejected by publishers. Bereft of electricity and phone, Daniel muses about Eric Blair a/k/a George Orwell who could not sell “animal stories” to his publisher; Samuel Clemens, Charles Dodgson, Currer Bell and others.
‘”Besides, he didn’t want to pimp out his genuine talents and become a hack, just to sell books and become “popular.” ‘
So, what is a serious novelist to do?
Davis tells us: “Having the least bit of stress in his life had a tendency to throw off his sleeping patterns and prevent his body and mind from achieving that basic health requirement of all humans: deep, restorative sleep.”
The answer comes to Daniel: re-read George Orwell, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Dickens, Poe, Laurence Stern, Cervantes, Voltaire, Geoffrey Chaucer.
Gradually he undergoes metamorphosis and becomes alter ego “Charles Spectrum.” (or was it Dermot Davis?) And then the fun begins.
Waterstone: “Some would say that the true use of satire is to provoke controversy, to stir up the populace from their torpid slumber and sound a wake-up call, challenging the status quo.”
Waterstone was completely out of touch with “the market” and that ignorance extended to music: “content to listen to his favorite composers, varying his choice dependent upon his mood: Mozart, Haydn or perhaps Sibelius when he was feeling cheerful; Mahler, Bach, Shostakovich or quite likely Rachmaninoff when he was feeling sad. As far back as he could remember he had always harbored a deep-seated feeling – almost a certainty – that he was born into the wrong age.”
(Parenthetically, we are surprised that Waterstone did not listen to Schumann, Mahler, Brahms and Wagner “when he was feeling cheerful.”)
Waterstone again: “It’s not like I could easily get a job or something. All I’ve done for the past ten years is write literary novels… a very slim resume, you must agree.” “Do you want to get a job?” “Of course not. I’m a writer. I want to write.”
So, as Charles Spectrum he sets out to write the ultimate “self-help” send-up because as Mavis the librarian observes “There are really only three genres that everyone wants to read and then everything else is a subset or a combination, thereof….”
Unable to sleep, malnourished, suffering from “exceedingly high stress levels” Specturm produces a monster best-seller.
This book caused this reviewer’s spirit to leave the body; she can levitate; she can channel Suzanne “listening to creative types” and she can fix her toaster by the laying on of hands. Waterstone/Spectrum/Davis (almost predictably Irish) has produced a sly and very funny look at the world of authors, agents, publishing, tabloid journalism and the modern reading public.
Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon. (Because authors sometimes have difficulty following instructions and solicit reviews from two different KBR reviewers, this one cannot be entered by KBR.)