Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tim Dorsey and Nuclear Jellyfish (Book Review)--Guest Appearance by Carl Hiaasen, Bad Novelist, and the State of Florida

Carl Hiaasen has become a bad novelist. He wrote a few very good, funny books set in (about?) Florida. Then he began believing his own press clippings. His recent books have mistaken mere weirdness, quirkiness, and a tenditious agenda (think David Kellyey here) for real humor and emotion. Hiaason's chracters were always quirky, but in his first few books you could believe in them as people. You no longer can. Hiaason is no longer worth reading. I no longer read his new book (whatever it may be at any particualr time).

James Hall, another Florida writer--although never really a comic novelist--has also become unreadable, after a few good books.

Is Tim Dorsey heading down the same road? Maybe so. Dorsey has written more than a few excellent comic novels of Florida. He has written one novel of Florida which I consider a great comic novel with real dept: Triggerfish Lane. However, most of his earlier novels were excellent, and screamingly funny (so long as you avoid the leftist diatribe known as Orange Crush). However, Dorsey has shown disturbing signs of heading down Hiaason's road to ruin. His recent novels have tended to mistake mere quirkiness and weirdness for a real plot and real humor. His previous book, The Atomic Lobster, while extremely funny in parts and with a semblance of an actual plot, lurched too far into the racuncy and weird, merely for the sake of being raunchy and weird. Worse, that book brought back the "ordinary" middle class family of Triggerfish Lane, and tended to undermine that previous book by revealing the family to not be "ordinary" at all.

I just finished Nuclear Jellyfish--the latest Dorsey book I have read. It is a bad book. It pains me to say this, because I consider Dorsey to be (or at least have been) the funniest comic novelist now writing.

"Nuclear Jellyfish" is a dull and tediious book, except for brief flashes of Dorsey at his comic best. The flashes of comic genius are now much too brief. The book is not worth reading (unless you are already a big fan of Dorsey, and can't miss any of his books). Rating (51 (out of 100, where 60 is generally the cut off rating for a book worth reading--rated this high only for those Dorsey flashes of comic genius).

Their are indications that Dorsey is becomings aware that his talent is now failing him. "Nuclear Jellyfish" concentrates solely on Serge A. Storms (Dorsey's serial killer anti-hero who kills only "jerks" who deserve it--which apparently includes most of the people of Florida).

"Nuclear Jellyfish" has no plot. Oh, the "official" plot is something about a gang robbing and murdering gem couriers (who are set up to be robbed). But the book is little more than a series of elaborate, "comic" murders of the "bad guys" by Serge. This is one of the indications that Dorsey is getting tired of his character, or at least that his invention is failing him. Most of the elaborate murders Serge commits in "Nuclear Jellyfish" are of mere GOONS (not presented as real people--even real "jerks"). This becomes merely tedious. Sure, a few (yep, there are that many) of the murders have a funny line or two, but overall they are tedious and repetitious. And Dorsey recognizes it. He even says so in the book itself (repeating the hubris of Stephen King in the really bad "Bag of Bones").

Moreover, the real plot of "Nuclear Jellyfish" is whether it is time for Serge A. Storms to end it all, because he is no longer a positive force "burning bright" (as in the famous poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay--spelling?). At one point in the book, Serge specifically talks about this "ratings" falling, and how it may be time for him to be cancelled. Is this a commentary on the sales of Dorsey books? It should be, because they deserve to be falling.

I will not tell you whether Serge actually commits suicide. If you are interested, you can read the book. The problem is that, by the end of the book, you will be rooting for Serge to end it all. I was.

Dorsey is right. Serge has outlived his usefulness as a character. In early books, he did not dominate the books (if he is even a major character at all). With "Nuclear Jellyfish", Dorsey has made it all about Serge, and he has nothing more to say using this cahracter. He is merely repeating himslelf, and trying to make up for it by being more and more quirky and raunchy. Too bad. Not funny.

Now there is a disturbing possibility here. It may not be Dorsey's fault. Maybe it is FLORIDA. Maybe there are no "normal" people left in Florida. Further, maybe Florida has become so toxic to normal human beings, that the writers who live there (or write like they live there) are unable to stay sane.

We already know we have lost California (which is why Dorsey's attempt to write about Calilfonia and Hollywood essentially failed, in "The Big Bamboo"). These Florida writers may be an indication that Florida is about to be lost to normal people with normal values.

What am I talking about. The Age of Obama indicates that most of the country may be becoming like Florida and California. Florida did vote for Obama, after almost voting for that eco-fraud, Al Gore.

Now I have depressed myself. And I no longer can look forward to the next Tim Dorsey book to bring me out of the depression with laughter. Things are getting really bad out here.

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