20 thoughts on “I Wish I Was Like You – S.P. Miskowski

  1. Part One

    Chapter One Chapter Two

    “By the way, I’m using the term ‘facedown’ loosely.”

    This flows like captivating ‘crime fiction’ syrup through a filter – and then back again. It is a backstory of a woman crime fiction writer or it is not that at all. It is you, it is me. It is about suicide as well as murder. And a grumpy ‘crime fiction’ teacher, a ‘crime fiction’ writer manqué, who is now dead, who lives again for you to tell us about him, and his rules of writing crime fiction, the first one of which you immediately break at the start. Or is the start really the start of this crime fiction novel, if that is what it is, or the beginning of your own frontstory to which the rest is back? “He was the first person I ever met who said what he thought while he was thinking it.” I don’t know when this book was written, but of course you don’t need to meet someone to know them better than you know yourself, facedown. I am already captured by this novel, and I will enjoy reading it to its finish, with its mind-biting yet syrup-flowing phrases of Chandleresque ‘out of the side of the mouth’ ironies and witticisms and lethal premonition. But ‘Chandleresque’ gives you no real clue as to this book’s style. Just my way of putting you off the scent. Indeed, I am not sure this novel is susceptible to real-time reviewing at all without risking putting you back on the scent by default. Whatever I decide, I will come back here to tell you what I think about it, even if I wait till its very end before doing so. Hold your breath.

    • “The writer, like a swimmer caught by an undertow, is borne in an unexpected direction. He is carried to a subject which has awaited him – a subject sometimes no part of his conscious plan. Reality, the reality of sensation, has accumulated where it was least sought. To write is to be captured – captured by some experience to which one may have hardly given a thought.” — Elizabeth Bowen

  2. Chapter Three

    “When you were a child you dreamed of growing up to be a fish, swimming deep, tempting the fisherman’s net with your flashy scales. You woke up sad to be a child again.”

    I only pop in here briefly to observe that earlier this morning I happened to create and describe the ‘You syndrome’ in respect of Kiernan’s Skin Game story here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/the-ammonite-violin-others-caitlin-r-kiernan/#comment-11818
    Seems synchronously apposite in more ways than one. Keeping my powder dry.

  3. Chapter 4

    “You might not have the soul to create fiction, but I think you could become a first class book reviewer someday, if you keep going.”

    I thought I needed to pop in again to quote that. In case someone murdered me and being murdered might colour my judgement when continuing to real-time this book. Death may change one’s view on life and its literary aesthetics, I guess.
    My Facebook post earlier in 2017:

    While I am here, though, I will say I was intrigued by Greta’s account of the men as lovers in her life including the grumpy misogynist crime fiction writer manqué who later tears her work to pieces and ignites the whole entrancing original plot, no doubt. I will now keep my powder dry and resist telling you any more about the plot. There are fascinating aspects of the plot and its ‘characters’ whom she meets that I can already tell are current enrichers of potential future elements of critical hindsight. There is, for example, one significant detail about the book’s opening corpse that I have withheld in this real-time review.

  4. Chapter 5

    “I was here and it made a stupid kind of sense because nothing made sense and nothing had to make sense and there was no pretense about it anymore.”

    I was here and I am here again. I’m breaking the rules that I have set for this review by coming back here again before the end. Like Greta broke her ex-tutor’s crime fiction rules. She’s working for a photocopy firm, an attritional activity conveyed here, as part of her real-time backstory. As if our life itself is an ongoing photocopy of itself? Fading little by little, the more copies that are made of previous copies. Never a palimpsest. Grudges and mistakes never redeemed. On both sides. I wish I was like you, perhaps prematurely seen as meaning something other than what it seems to mean? More than just a copy of you?

  5. Chapter Six Chapter Seven

    “The sea jellies are translucent and shaped like soft, bulbous bells… Oh, the moon jellies have such long, long tentacles…”

    I thought it important that I at least continue to report here where I have read up to on the days I pick up this indeed consuming and remarkably original book, my copy of the book, of course, and indeed I now have to admit I am reading an electronic version of the real book by means of a Kindle I bought this time. And while I am here, I may as well say at least something unspoilerish. The above quote is a sort of a facsimile of sex as dirty talk used professionally to assist men at the end of the phone. To do what? Well, telling them about your latest shopping trip seems a real hoot to me. And I hesitate to tell you how far Greta stoops in her slide from the once planned writerly fame. And the bold print that heads each fainter print of the You-syndrome that now turns, it seems, as delightfully Sapphic as some of the Kiernan stuff I have read in recent months. And the various coloured paper for copying print that Greta gets back into, when not shorting the till. None of this quite tells you as much as you deserve from a proper gestalt real-time review. Next time there will be even less, I guess. The less said about a good book when living outside of that book, the better. And this book deserves better than me. It is that good. I wish I was like you.

  6. Chapter Eight Chapter Nine

    “The play was a Jacobean pastiche.”

    Pastiche, or “hot-off-the-typewriter”, home mainframe computers, being mentored, crime fiction macho or machine-driven, play-reading in costume, “the difference between beige and yellow paper”, writerly ambitions never coming to the proper page, reading as solace, a gestalter of reviewing or a Greta Gestetner xerox or fax, one manuscript in a mountain of them, (today in someone’s inbox, no doubt), I follow Greta’s life and those people she encounters or half-fancies with some rub-off from all these themes, “copying my masterpieces”, one about a dog groomer not the dog, but at least the former is human, the Ganesha idol, notwithstanding. All idols being copies of the particular source God they each represent.

    The above vestigial accoutrements which fill my mind give you no substantive clue as to the consuming narrative itself. My review is outside and even beyond that narrative. You have to read it for that. So far, unmissable. For you and your dog.

    “…the true nature of every writer: a rampaging megalomaniac in a one-bedroom apartment; a shambling alcoholic in an outdated T-shirt; a god in his own mind. It takes a lot of misery to kill a writer’s ambition because, in a way, ambition feeds on misery.”

    Those words from this book to frame and put on your bedroom wall. If you are the right you.

    “I was born to make photocopies,”

  7. Part Two

    Chapter Ten

    “Every girl is calling out, listening for an echo, a voice assuring her she is her own captain and her destiny, a soul rising to be seen, unashamed, unabashed, unafraid to walk home in the pitch dark between busted streetlights.”

    I can’t help coming back here – in media res – to draw attention (in this wholly remarkable book) to the context of the above quote from Greta’s new character (or her new photo- or proto-Sapphic friend in this novel’s real-time) and the ‘rage’, here acknowledged, that has rightly hit our world following scandals of sexual harassment, scandals probably since this book was written. But this text is also ‘copied’ or planned to be copied (bringing the photocopy theme of this book towards plagiarism as well as of life itself, our lives, our faxes now sent between us on- or between-line.)

    “We all want to be the guy who comes to town, proves everybody wrong and stupid, and leaves no forwarding address. That guy doesn’t give a shit what we think of him.”

    I hope to stay, and uphold my case. To report, today, here, as one example, the brilliant wittily hilarious portrayal of Greta’s blustering interview to be a paid theatre reviewer (although she has not given up the heaven’s gate of fiction writerly success even if perhaps by an as yet uncommitted plagiarism), so as to transcend hard work, random events and a ‘snot wall’.

    “How in the world would anyone sit down and write an honest and thorough critical analysis of performances she didn’t want to see in the first place?”

    Exactly my point.

    “‘Sure.’ On the way over I’d stopped by a copy center (not the one where I worked), for a fresh edition of the essay. I couldn’t present her with the wine-stained original.”

  8. Chapter 11

    “You could identify the local boomers by a stone Buddha or a painted Ganesha peeking through their weedy gardens, and by the tinkling of wind chimes on hand-carved porticos.”

    I am a boomer from those days, too, now much older. This is a novel’s novel, I sense, with characterisations and leitmotifs to die for. Literally.
    As Greta Gerta Garver Gestetener lives the preterite of the preinternet, “the cut and paste, off the floor”, of her new sub-magazine BOOM City job as reviewer (didn’t someone once say in this book that she would make a better reviewer than fiction source writer?), an eye on a job at more prime STRANGER, but she is more of a blustering actor now, living off randomness, off a chance plagiarism, after acting front-of-house for a mentor’s play-reading group (I belong to a play-reading group in my local area, even (or especially?) at the age of 70) and now she is herself a supposed theatre buff. One character has a “boom box” and another is “moving blocks of text, resizing ads and comic strips,…”

    And the boldprint-led ‘You-syndrome’ encounters resume:
    “At night the towers of the Pacific Science Center resemble waiting monsters, their arched backs struck by teal and violet light, silent, brooding, animals of great height pausing near water to listen.”

    This book rocks, and rolls. I am between both, letting it slide past, letting it go whither it will, in this world (as somewhere in this chapter, it states) whereto we can never leave our mark. (Indelibility of source, later destroyed by the internet, I ask?)

  9. Chapter Twelve

    “I want you to shadow her.”

    Were people shadowed (I Wish I Were Like You), as it were, in the being-mentored sense, in those days of physical slush piles? Whatever, we continuously learn more about Greta in interface with her new job, and with a rounded, fleshed-out new character she is shadowing called Vanessa (music reviewer), and the outcome of news of significant vanishment from Greta’s own backstory, as if that backstory is changed retrocausally? Well, not really. And factored-in are Herman Melville, the music band Atrocious, the protocols or pitfalls of reviewing works of art like music, theatre and books (that I have covered already in many places of essay on this my own reviewing – accretively post-Internet – site)…

  10. Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen

    “These hulking novels full of allusions to this classic book or that philosophy, they’re bullshit.”
    “Let me tell you, stories don’t change a goddamn thing.”

    Well, that’s one view plainly spoken within this novel. But I feel it ironic that this novel itself teems with so much hidden allusion of meaning, latent behind its plainspokenness. This all makes me forget my secret about the text’s original predication of Greta until I am reminded of it by the bold start of a You-syndrome at the end of some chapters.
    We also have here the repercussions of Theatre reviewing, and its backbite. The reviewing of anything, I say, even books. “I began to wonder what would happen if I wrote scathing reviews.”
    And some more wonderful thematic stuff that adds to this book’s growing Gestetener gestalt of a barely remembered. preinternet era. That her erstwhile crime fiction tutor ended his son’s name with Jr. (as they often do in America, I have noticed). A replica of self. And I note the ‘paper nest’ newspaper office in a restaurant allusively named with Kane’s ‘Rosebud’. “…a blank, a veil behind a veil.” The ethos of koala and hyena. And the accident of a theatre’s seating. “Being noticed is important. Being liked is not.” “Call it a series of experiments in chance and mortality.”
    The post-internet shenanigans prefigured: “The gossip I repeated became distorted, maliciously inflated, until even the people who started rumors were taken aback by my version.”

  11. Chapter Fifteen

    Probably so far the most fucked-up section of this book. Intentionally, so. The background to the real-time fake news of BOOM CITY classifieds and its gossip columnist’s ‘minions’. Real people in those days without forum avatars or blog backstories. The preinternet preterite that created the postinternet with anti-natalism and suicides and people who were already dead without knowing it, or if knowing it, unable to tell us (until now with this novel?), a preintenet already physically in bad bud in Greta’s day. But now such minions are hidden under the electronic carpet, or have magnified chance or ad hoc conversations, magnified today by on-line copy and paste forever. That’s what I infer, at least. Strong material, this chapter. Each minion another ‘you’ to meet, post-suicide or post-Internet? A delayed programmed blogpost?

  12. Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen

    “I don’t hate anybody.”

    Nor does Greta, maybe, but she is devious and lays a sort of what I would call a bomb for someone, her boss at Boom City, a bomb in the shape of a young man with closer multi-fuckable proximity than the new-fangled “email” (a word here slipped into the text), an event that arises in this real-time now of “1994”, it seems. A personnel ‘bomb’, I sense, from “all the stuff that is booming” and when – “boom”! – he is suddenly employed by the boss’s boss without due diligence, it seems, employed at Boom City. Following a brunch, a piece of bacon, the act of miming (miming being obliquely significant, I feel, in the context of this ever-surprising novel) and a ravaged side of beef. Seattle itself has a personality of its own in this novel (“You see, every wave of new residents creates a boom followed by a bust,”)
    Cassettes to CDs (to podcasts?)… ironies on ironies, from analogue to digital, to… “Maybe because of the breezy post-gonzo style without any real content, without even the awareness that content matters. It’s a style about style, about itself.” Unaccountably, this novel seems to make me swear, in quite an out-of-character way!

  13. Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty

    “, I wanted to say something that mattered to another human being. I wanted to whisper in the ear of the anonymous public, to entice and entrance with my words.”

    More dwellings on the art of reviewing, conviction versus self-serving, and on Nate the bombshell darling of the editorial room, the shenanigans and bluster, the ironies of things catching up on you. I am born as my own Nate, I am guided by my own Greta or greater sensibilities, but I am fundamentally myself, I hope, desperate to spot that core Hedda Gabler performance equivalent within the realms of literature. Fearless as to whether it is performed by friend or foe. I am my own SPM, too, and those bold-started passages of syndrome ‘yous’ are perhaps the ultimate symbols of someone’s plagiarisms in the finest prose imaginable, because surely no one person could have writ them all? Whatever the case, you can never escape the final come-uppance. As long as it IS up, not down … come-downance, as I infer Greta’s audit trail is about to become, specially bearing in mind this book’s original potential plot spoiler that I will never divulge in this review.

  14. Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-Two Chapter Twenty-Three

    “, when I heard a knock at the door. I assumed it was a neighbor or the landlord. I pulled the door open and took a step backward, farther into the room.
    There was no one at the door. Only a peculiar smell, a smoky aroma like a burned-out campfire.”

    Copycat suicides Kurt Cobain each a new you?
    Retrocausal emptying what you just wrote of people visiting, your revenge – language you do not own?
    With my gestalt real-time reviewing I often have wondered whether perceived or worried-about possible plagiarism is more preternatural than intentional, more so even than accidental? https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/dreamcatching-or-plagiarism/ (please also see the comments attached to that old postinternet blogpost).

  15. Part Three

    “Fuck you, Seattle!”

    Five more chapters, and I think I should now at last hold to my promise promised at the start of this real-time review to stand back and just watch the events unfold, without reporting back on them. Like Greta, I feel more detached. But I begin to know Greta even better now. She becomes the real person she always promised to become. A phenomenon in this book that is unique. And most of the language in these closing pages is breath-taking, almost literally. Via “the art of making people feel like the air was passing right through them”, paradoxically? Almost as if this was indeed the brink of the Internet era, which it was in 1994, where minions became the masters, and those “troll photos” in the book do indeed vanish like snapchat? Or do they remain in some cloud, like we all do eventually? A theme that I find in this book, one which ever remained explicitly implicit, to the end. “…I realized the cycle was faster than it used to be. Everything had this shuddering quality.”

    This is a remarkable novel, and I found these brilliantly written closing scenes most moving. The chance arm of today’s electronic circumstances allowed me to be exposed to it, not least because I had been impelled before by the Internet to read this author and, thus, I could not resist joining her here in what turned out to be an oversight of someone called Greta, greater than all of us, that is because she is someone made real by fiction. Not by writing it, but by being in it.

    “You’re getting bolder, more distinct, all the time.”


  16. As an aside, I am reading and reviewing at the moment “Journal of a Disappointed Man’ (1919) by WNP Barbellion. This SPM book might have been subtitled Journal of a Disappointed Woman? Or of a Flawed Woman?

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