It took me a long time to get through Powdered Eggs by Charles Simmons and I’m way too lazy to try to recap what happens, so forgive me for copying Netgalley’s synopsis before I start commenting on the book.
A young writer-to-be embarks on a comic coming-of-age journey through the crushing mediocrity of work, the vagaries of fate, and the mysteries of sex
A confused and conflicted but not altogether angry young man shares his observations, disappointments, rants, and sexual desires in a revealing series of letters to an unnamed friend. Our hero wants to be a writer, but is stuck doing mind-numbing work for an unscrupulous encyclopedia publisher. He muddles through two engagements, one to a bright-eyed Catholic virgin, the other to a woman pregnant with another man’s child. And the Great American Novel he is writing—about a man named Austin who is becoming invisible—may be a bit too much for the reading public to handle. But as long as he’s got his friends (like Jose, who is determined to bed and wed his cousin Rita the nun), his health (no thanks to the medical establishment that killed his father), and his libido, everything should turn out okay.
What I didn’t know when I picked up the book or even until now that I finished it, is that this is a re-release and Powdered Eggs was first published in 1964. Another thing I didn’t get until I read the above synopsis again, was that this is a series of letters intertwined with this story the narrator is writing.
It is kind of confusing and would I have cared about this book, maybe I would go back to the beginning to see if it was my mistake for not figuring this out or recognising it but the truth is, I really did not enjoy this story. Not one bit.
First of all, every chapter, or in this case letter, is one big blob of words, there are no paragraphs and it is really annoying to read. Even more so because the author doesn’t use quotation marks to indicate when someone talks or who is talking. I guess it is meant to look witty but to me it is just pretentious and confusing.
The fact that every chapter is supposed to be a letter explains why the chapters all seem so disconnected from each other and part of me can even understand that but in the way this ebook was constructed, it just doesn’t work for me.
The story in itself, well, it is abundantly clear this was written by a man. The last chapter features what is supposed to be a witty self-critical last letter about how the narrator offended all sorts of different groups of people but in one thing he is wrong. The most punished social group by this book are women, not Italians, Germans, Jews or Catholics but women. The way he talks about them?! Just no. There is a scene where the narrator starts talking to his chamber maids vagina (a woman he had just met, might I add) as if it is a separate entity and it doesn’t matter what the woman attached thinks as long as he still go the vajaja to play with. And then he takes the maid then and there because who cares what she thinks, clearly she must want this weird American tourist who’s room she just cleaned. I’ve seldom read fanfiction that was as bad as this when it comes to sudden sexual encounters and I’ve read a lot of mediocre fanfiction. Consent, what is consent, am I right?! It’s like the author even wants a pat on the back for this.
Clearly I am not the intended audience for this novel and a quick look on Amazon shows me that it mostly got raving reviews which makes me feel dumb and like I missed some vital point the author was trying to make but no. This is meant to be shocking, okay, but there is nothing clever about comparing Rome to a vagina or having your friend lust after his nun-cousin. Maybe, if I were a pretentious man, I could pump my fist in the air and say: Finally a book after my own heart but I am neither of those and instead I want to HULKSMASH everything and bring down the patriarchy all at the same time!
There a lucid moments for this story where I though, hey this isn’t so bad and maybe everything that came before was a misunderstanding but then comes another sentence and the little hope I had is buried under bad innuendoes, sexism and misogyny.
I haven’t read Cather in the Rye yet with which this is apparently often compared and the John Irving I read, I did enjoy although it has been years since I read The Hotel New Hampshire and I am clearly a different person now but no, this book brings me to Nopeville.