Book Jacket

 

rank  Editors Pick
word count 27234
date submitted 31.08.2011
date updated 07.01.2013
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction
classification: adult
incomplete

The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place

Nathan O'Hagan

Over 28 years Gary Lennon has built a wall between himself and society, but forces beyond his control are about to pull that wall down.

 

Gary Lennon spends most of his time alone. The only things punctuating his solitude are his immersive OCD rituals, his angry rants to himself, and awkward encounters with his immediate family and the few friends he hasn't yet managed to alienate. When Gary's psychiatrist refuses to keep signing him off work, Gary is forced to take a soul-destroying job in a call centre, the sweatshop of the modern age, and into a confrontation with all the things he hates and fears the most.

A dark, funny, and occasionally shocking first person account of life in the depressed Northern town of Birkenhead, told through the eyes of a young man whose mental health deteriorates in direct correlation with the amount of time he is forced to spend with other people.

 
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tags

alienation, angry, birkenhead, contemporary., dark, funny, gritty, mental illness, merseyside, northern, urban, violent

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HarperCollins Wrote

Gary lives in his flat in self-inflicted solitude. He hates all human contact and has a variety of ailments, including OCD, which sees him spending days cleaning both his home and himself. His only contact with the outside world comes in the weekly compulsory visits to the Job Centre and a psychiatrist, or the odd trip to the pub with his three remaining friends and the obligatory visits to see his family, who don't understand him at all. He feels total despair at the state of Britain today and is relatively content with his self-sufficient life – until his psychiatrist takes a risk and decides to declare Gary fit for work, in the hope that it will break him out of his rut. This review is based on the first 30K words, bringing the story up to Gary’s assignment to a local call centre.

The story is told from Gary's point of view, and the narrative successfully gets inside his mind to relay his perspective. The narrative is, on the whole, funny, intelligent, self-aware and self-effacing; it certainly compelled me into reading on and wanting to find out more about the protagonist. The conversations between him and his family are strong – very natural and believable – and include some fantastic details, such as Gary’s explosion after being incessantly kicked by his nephew throughout a meal. The first few interactions with members of the public are also very amusing and articulate – anyone who dares try to interact with him bears the brunt of his rants about his need to be left alone. However, the more lengthy rants – for example, the whole of Chapter Twelve is an uninterrupted outpouring – become perceptibly more bitter and often seem disengaged from the story, feeling less like Gary’s voice than that of the author. Gary needs more substance than his tirades, and I would advise keeping a check on them, to ensure these episodes don’t distract and put a dampener on the narrative. They need to remain in context.

Providing more background to why Gary has become the way he is would supply a balance to his internal dialogues, as well as encouraging us to care more about him and his situation. His interactions with people seem to begin to indicate what has led to his condition, but it needs to be further developed. For instance, Gary’s relationship with his psychiatrist, Brian, is fraught with conflict. Gary seems to resent him completely and dismisses all his advice. However, on several occasions we see Gary performing the breathing exercises recommended by Brian, and another time Gary says he can’t get something Brian said out of his head. I wonder if he respects him more than he lets on? Similarly, I hope the tense relationship with his brother is explored further and will add another dimension to why Gary is as he is. I did feel, however, that the introduction of his three friends suddenly after several chapters jarred my impression of him as being totally isolated and unable to retain friendships, and perhaps would have been better integrated if they had at least been mentioned earlier in the story. His relations with them seem easy enough, which doesn’t completely fit with the persona that has been established for Gary thus far. Possibly then, it’s just new people he has a problem with? I want to understand, gain insight into and engage with Gary’s world, his background and his deteriorating mental health. The reasons for his descent into increasing mental turmoil and inability to interact are relatively vague at this point – I hope they will be fleshed out in the following chapters, but I do feel that they should be tackled early, at least on a basic level, to keep the reader’s interest.

This is a darkly comic tale, somewhat in the same vein as Will Wiles’ ‘Care of Wooden Floors’ in that shares some similar themes and a focus on one man’s daily existence at an unexpectedly eventful point in his life. Many people will be able to relate to Gary’s predicament if only on a minor scale: disdain of the mundane day-to-day grind of work, social awkwardness and annoyance at other people’s grievances, even if they share the same ones. This novel would most likely appeal to the 25+ male and female markets and be pitched as a quirky story, rather than one with broad mass-market appeal, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The dark humour is the main push of this novel for me, but there is certainly room for some lighter moments to balance it out. I am intrigued to find out what happens to Gary. The title implies things may get better for him, though the synopsis provided refers to his deterioration, so I’m just not sure what to expect next. This is a great solid start that, with some editing, could be even better.

Paul Dyer wrote 897 days ago

In his strange deliciously f**ked-up way, Gary Lennon is a literary descendant of Jimmy Porter (“Look Back in Anger”), Childe Harold, and Pechorin (Lermontov’s “A Hero of Our Time”). Even if he didn’t own his flaws with such vitriolic eloquence, he would be incapable of passing them off as the rantings of a concerned citizen. And yet one does not have to suffer from OCD and from Lennon’s extreme anti-social tendencies to identify with his concerns about England—and modern humanity.

At heart, Lennon is a childlike perfectionist who refuses to live in an asymmetrical world. He wants to remain in his apartment, where he doesn’t have to collaborate on the definition of order and cleanliness with fellow-citizens, celebrities, and politicians. Allegorizing the prandial habits of his five-year-old nephew, Gary Lennon spends his time at the dinner table of life kicking the shins of his neighbors because he can’t get his way. Like Miss La Trobe in “Between the Acts,” Gary wants to make people see. Critics have interpreted Miss La Trobe as a stand-in not only for Virginia Woolf but for all artists. In a startlingly similar way, Mr O’Hagan and his mentally-challenged protagonist are determined to make us see that the world is (not) a cold dead place.

Every time Gary seems about to slip away from us into his own school for special children, Mr O’Hagan democratizes his malaise with enviable dramatic precision. Toward the end of the excerpt here, just when we—and Gary—believe (hope) he may be able to reintegrate into society, he has a perfectly unpleasant experience at the urinal of a pub that—whatever your sexual orientation or tolerance for kink—would send most “normal” people screaming for the sanctuary—and sanitary sanity—of their own private living spaces.

The first-person point-of-view is ideal for this kind of narrative; the prose is scintillating and fluid, just the sort of prose you need to tame—and frame—the volatility of Gary’s mind. Only an extremely talented writer could make such a seriously damaged man so lovable. I’m not sure how to fault this work. It has the makings of a classic. It’s like the dark horse in the Oscar race that steals by the Merchant-Ivoryesqye favorite to win the day. I love plot-driven works; I love “Great Expectations” as much for its Dickensian delicacies as for its blatant plottiness. If you can’t spin a good yarn, you better create wonderful characters, have a superb sense of comic—or dramatic—timing, and weave the most sumptuous prose. I cannot quibble with Mr O’Hagan on any of these points. I heartily back this book.

Lexingtongue wrote 552 days ago

Look at my comment history and you will notice I seldom feel the need to post my opinions about anything I read on this site. This, however, is by far and away the best story I've stumbled across on authonomy. I can totally associate with Gary's character - despite his odder foibles - and I was compelled to read on when often I will stop after the first chapter with the books on here.

If you hadn't already been selected for the editor's desk I would have gladly backed you. This reads like a book that has already been published. Don't take it down any time soon, I will certainly be back to read the rest when I have a moment of free time. I've also shared it with a friend who I think will likewise appreciate it. All the best with this, if it ever makes it to print be sure to pop me a message and I'd happily shelve this with the rest of my literature.

Dave

ZoeSelina wrote 852 days ago

You've been ambushed by the crit ninja! http://www.authonomy.com/forums/threads/88310/crit-ninja-/

I read the first five chapters of this book, and although "enjoy" doesn't quite seem to fit, I was certainly drawn in to Gary's life and his situation and remain fascinated. I disagree with the commenter who said the characters in this book are unlikeable. I felt real sympathy for Gary (although he'd probably hate me for it) and I don't think his actions and reactions are particularly unusual, even though they're on the extreme end of the scale (at least they made sense to me, though that may just say something about me...). I think many people would be able to relate to him on one level or another, which shows how well created he is. I found him very believable.

I noticed almost no mistakes (just a couple of missing commas, really) and never stumbled over awkward phrasing or bad choices of words. The only thing that grated a bit was the timeline in chapter 3 (in the shop). It jumped a little bit back and forth between previous experiences and the present day and while it wasn't exactly confusing, it felt a bit disjointed.

I really enjoyed how well you captured the feeling of not only Birkenhead, but Gary's feelings about it. I really felt the bleakness and detachedness he experienced, and felt that it went beyond just Gary himself, making a backdrop for the whole story.

This is a very strong effort. I would buy it, and hope to be able to someday.

I'll be back to read more when my WL gets under control. Highly starred and backed.

melissa_simonson wrote 749 days ago

Marry me? (Haha just kidding....unless the answer's yes)

I loved it. I got through five chapters, and I'm backing it. I don't think I'll ever take it off my shelf, because you have something special here, and it really does deserve to make it all the way to the top.

I don't know if you've ever read the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay, but Gary reminds me of Dexter, (of course sans the serial killer thing) in the way that he describes his little everyday annoyances with such disdain for the human race. I could instantly relate to him. Normally I dislike a lot of inner chatter with main characters, but you made it work. His inner monologue is the driving force behind this novel.

As I said, I got through five chapters, and I'm not really sure where it's going so far, but inexplicably it doesn't make much difference to me- I feel like I know Gary, and just listening to him talk is enough. His interactions with Brian are probably my favorite part. I like how you show us things about him, aside from the 'anger' he feels is his predominant emotion. The way he'd have liked to help the handicapped man, but his OCD held him back- how rude he was to his parents, but the guilt that made him apologize- little things like that make a generally unrelatable character instantly relatable, because te audience can tell that he's not just a rude robot.

The only thing that I think you could work on, if you were so inclined, was more description of the surroundings. I know you touched on it, and it was fine. Everything works regardless, without flowering descriptions of Birkenhead's every minute detail, because Gary's voice is so clear and irritated.

I don't know if this helped you much, sometimes I'm not as articulate as I think I should be, but I just wanted you to know that I loved it and wish you all the best.

Melissa

AndrewStevens wrote 836 days ago

This is really is terrific stuff, Nathan. Highly starred and on my shelf.

The prose is very smooth with an engagingly conversational, almost chatty feel which immediately allows the reader to identify with Gary and his emotional plight. The dialogue feels real and purposeful and helps add tremendous energy to the scenes as well as providing ample opportunity for often very funny comic exchanges. Gary comes across as a clearly very troubled but extremely sympathetic young man. As a reader, you can't help but root for him as he battles to make his way in what feels - particularly from Gary's mentally vulnerable perspective - like a very hostile, unwelcoming world.

The town of Birkenhead almost feels like a character in itself - unkempt and forlorn but with a lingering inner resilience - cleverly mirroring Gary's own predicament. The plot feels well thought out and involving and, due to the mixture of comedy and pathos, should appeal to a broad cross section of readers. I particularly enjoyed your use of often quite bleak, darkly tragic comedy to undercut the mounting desperation Gary feels as his life spirals out of control. There's always a danger in a novel like this of the narrative becoming too intense, too emotionally draining and your use of absurdist comedy helps both to provide the reader with an emotional respite whilst also somehow helping to make Gary's character feel even more real and engaging. Clever stuff.

In short, a very stylish, original piece of work that will resonate with the reader long after they've stopped reading. Thanks and best of luck. A

Mysky1 wrote 506 days ago

I must admit I'm hooked.

made wrote 549 days ago

yeah loved it

Lexingtongue wrote 552 days ago

Look at my comment history and you will notice I seldom feel the need to post my opinions about anything I read on this site. This, however, is by far and away the best story I've stumbled across on authonomy. I can totally associate with Gary's character - despite his odder foibles - and I was compelled to read on when often I will stop after the first chapter with the books on here.

If you hadn't already been selected for the editor's desk I would have gladly backed you. This reads like a book that has already been published. Don't take it down any time soon, I will certainly be back to read the rest when I have a moment of free time. I've also shared it with a friend who I think will likewise appreciate it. All the best with this, if it ever makes it to print be sure to pop me a message and I'd happily shelve this with the rest of my literature.

Dave

Tabatha wrote 562 days ago

I love this style of fiction. Gritty and uncomprimising. On my shelf :)

celineventura wrote 562 days ago

curious about this,

funnyantfarm wrote 562 days ago

FINALLY! You got selected. Congratulations!

Sammi Stone wrote 563 days ago

It looks like my backing may be too late to add to your score but I hope the SIX STARS I gave you help make sure you keep in the Top 5.

Brill writing and a great character driven story from the part of it I've read so far.

Sammi

Dale R wrote 564 days ago

This is so well written, I wonder if this is an auto-biography. The author writes with such insight and honesty that seems to me could only come from personal experience. He puts you literally inside the head of Gary.
I was grabbed from the opening line and could not stop reading. I experienced Gary's anxiety and frustration.
Very well done. I look forward to reading more.
A solid FIVE STARS. I'm sure the rest of the book will be just as compelling and would probably rate Six stars.

LCF Quartet wrote 567 days ago

Hi Nathan,
I read the first three chapters of your book and I have to say that I was surprised to see that it reminded me of my book. Your style in general is honest and the prose flows well.
What amazes me is the structure, pace and dialogue development of your book.
High stars.
Best,
Lucette Cohen Fins- Ten Deep Footprints

hwf1942 wrote 572 days ago

Hi Nathan,

I've read and enjoyed your 1st chapter. I liked the rhythm and flow of the writing, the apt observations, the humour and the situation. This is a story that most people can identify with. I will be reading on sometime soon.
High stars,
If the rest of your book remains at this level I am sure it will be a success.
Regards
Harris
Irina's Eye
http://authonomy.com/books/46331/irina-s-eye/

SusanHooper wrote 572 days ago

I'm really enjoying this book. It's extremely well written and the place and characters are vivid. I've just finished the new James Herbert novel and I think I'm going to read all you've put up of 'The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place.

Nell Peters wrote 575 days ago

Gary is not an immediately sympathetic character, but your use of the first person cleverly gives quick insight into why this is so. He is alienated from society and family, more or less content in his solitary existence - and as described, he has a lot more mental health issues than OCD! I read the first six chapters, despite finding the opening paragraphs slightly off-putting (in style, not content) - but I quickly overcame any reticence and wanted to read on. Characterisation is good - love Brian, who should probably seek out a new career path. Overall an excellent, well constructed read with a pleasing flow - best of luck. Anne.

iandsmith wrote 583 days ago

Well done. Go for it. A Manc never forgets. Just upped my rating and backed it.

NathanielBridgewater wrote 583 days ago

Fascinating.

APatterson2012 wrote 590 days ago

Love this story! I have read the first six chapters and I can't get enough of Gary! What a great use of first person POV. The reader can experience Gary's life by putting themselves in his place. I can't wait to read more. You are extremely talented and I wish you the very best of luck!!!

Amanda

David 2012 wrote 591 days ago

Nathan,
I've read the first 5 and a bleaker book I don't believe I have ever encountered. Maybe that is your intent. I have to say that I don't believe Gary; I think he is, in part, a liar, and truly lacking in self-insight. He frequently talks about panic attacks, but he has been accosted by a stranger ranting at the train station, he has been humiliated repeatedly by a thug in a convenience store, he has endured and taunted his psychiatrist and so on, and in all of this he has not displayed the first sign of panic. In fact, the only 2 qualities he displays are timidity and rage and one soon suspects that the rage is actually with himself for being so pathetically timid. He might say that this bit of analysis is predictable and uninspired, but that doesn't mean that it it isn't accurate.

That this is well done, there is no question. That I don't wish to continue on with it is a testament to it that it is well done.

David
Toccata and Fugue

Sue Harries wrote 594 days ago

have rated your book, having problems adding to WL at moment will add as soon as possible and back as soon as space ok. Sue 'It's a Dog's Life'

Olivia wrote 594 days ago

Nathan,

Just now getting the chance to add you to my book shelf and great to see that you are continuing to do well with this very deserving book. All the best, Olivia

Odette67 wrote 600 days ago

HI Nathan,

I read this again last night. I just love it, I so want to read more. Your writing style is very good, and I really feel for Gary each time i read it.

I will leave your book on my shelf until the ed's desk has closed , yours is a very worthy contender.

Kate

Abby Vandiver wrote 608 days ago

Well, this story could be about me. This is very good. I only read the first chapter and while the dialogue was limited it gave a good insight on this man's psyche. Good writing.

Good job.

Jonny Sambuca wrote 609 days ago

There's nothing more I can add that hasn't been covered within the 384 comments this excellent work of prose has thus far attracted. I have followed Gary's journey fairly early upon his arrival in Bleak Cit... I mean Authonomy and have witnessed him rise to the top of the vat. All I can say is it is very well deserved and that Nathan is a great writer and has worked very hard to get his efforts recognised. All the best with your writing and I look forward to a hard copy being sent to my secret hideout.

Jonny

funnyantfarm wrote 614 days ago


Hi,

I copied my comments from earlier because I don't think they appeared here. This is my second day on the site, and I am still trying to figure out all things authotechnical!

Chapter 1 is very well written. I noticed one mistake: a hard day's work.

I am looking forward to reading the following chapters.

I have gotten to chapter 11. I really, really like your book. Gary is a paradox--a disagreeable protagonist--and I am intrigued as to how the story will progress. You have a style that grabs the reader's attention from the outset. Your description of the behaviour of someone with OCD is fascinating (Gary's fears, his rituals and so on).

There are a number of little things that detract from my enjoyment of the story, however. Proper punctuation seems to be a bugaboo, especially commas. Two basic rules of thumb for commas are 1) use a comma after a word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence that is in marked (not its usual) position (Yesterday, I saw him walking down the street); and 2) use a comma before using someone's name in direct speech ("I hear you, Fred."). There are a few other things, such as punctuation with quotation marks, but nothing that consulting a style guide couldn't fix.

Also, I found the first two paragraphs of chapter 2 to be full of run-on sentences. Breaking the sentences down would be more effective and reflect the style of the other chapters. I am taking a break before moving on to chapter 13 as I have spent nearly two hours on this site, but I am looking forward to reading more.

Your book is definitely one I would buy.

Greg

PS-If you could take a critical look at my endeavour, Alter Business, I would appreciate it.

RMAWriteNow wrote 615 days ago

Hi Nathan; I have just finished reading your first two chapters.
Not what I was expecting but certainly worth reading. This read like a reverse American Psycho. Gary is a man unwilling to conform, not wanting to conform, and getting progressively further and further from the society he abhors. You write well and certainly make the whole thing interesting. It is hard to like Gary but deep, deep down, you can see where he is coming from. For that reason this is a six star read and I applaud you for making a tough character a quality read.
RMA
The Snow Lily

funnyantfarm wrote 615 days ago

Hi,

I have gotten to chapter 11. I really, really like your book. Gary is a paradox--a disagreeable protagonist--and I am intrigued as to how the story will progress. You have a style that grabs the reader's attention from the outset. Your description of the behaviour of someone with OCD is fascinating (Gary's fears, his rituals and so on).

There are a number of little things that detract from my enjoyment of the story, however. Proper punctuation seems to be a bugaboo, especially commas. Two basic rules of thumb for commas are 1) use a comma after a word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence that is in marked (not its usual) position (Yesterday, I saw him walking down the street); and 2) use a comma before using someone's name in direct speech ("I hear you, Fred."). There are a few other things, too, but nothing that consulting a style guide couldn't fix.

Also, I found the first two paragraphs of chapter 2 to be full of run-on sentences. Breaking the sentences down would be more effective and reflect the style of the other chapters. I am taking a break before moving on to chapter 13 as I have spent nearly two hours on this site, but I am looking forward to reading more.

Greg

PS-If you could take a critical look at my endeavour, Alter Business, I would appreciate it.

funnyantfarm wrote 615 days ago

Chapter 1 is very well written. I noticed one mistake: a hard day's work. I think it would be more effective to drop the shall from the sentence "I shall offer no explanation..." in the penultimate paragraph.

I am looking forward to reading the following chapters.

Greg

Odette67 wrote 617 days ago

I have really enjoyed to chapter 13. is there more to come...i should like to know how Gary copes with this and does he ever really cope again with his family?

dont make me wait too long

kate

Off the rails

Odette67 wrote 622 days ago

Hi Nathan,

Read chapter 7 and 8 really enjoying it but couldn't get chapter 6 up.. hit laptop with hammer wasn't impressed!

its really very good.

Kate Off the rails

mikegilli wrote 622 days ago

hi there and congrats on your witty insightful and entertaining book. I found it easy to identify with Gary, his feelings are wildly exaggerated and extreme things we all feel, and his observations of society from outside are spot on and often hilarious.
My advice? I suspect you have this well finished, but if there's still room for updates... It's hard to keep up the best monologue for a whole book, one trick is to use dialogue whenever possible, which you do beautifully with the odious Mr Fenna, but miss the opportunity perhaps, in the pub scene.
What happens to Gary in the Call center?? Will he totally crack up, or maybe by a one in a million chance find someone on the same wavelength as him? This is the suspense you've set up and I would plug it as much as possible!
As for the Editors desk, it occurs to me your best bet might be to try and stay on No 6, so you get a month of glory at No 1, instead of scraping in at No5!

mikegilli wrote 622 days ago

hi there and congrats on your witty insightful and entertaining book. I found it easy to identify with Gary, his feelings are wildly exaggerated and extreme things we all feel, and his observations of society from outside are spot on and often hilarious.
My advice? I suspect you have this well finished, but if there's still room for updates... It's hard to keep up the best monologue for a whole book, one trick is to use dialogue whenever possible, which you do beautifully with the odious Mr Fenna, but miss the opportunity perhaps, in the pub scene.
What happens to Gary in the Call center?? Will he totally crack up, or maybe by a one in a million chance find someone on the same wavelength as him? This is the suspense you've set up and I would plug it as much as possible!
As for the Editors desk, it occurs to me your best bet might be to try and stay on No 6, so you get a month of glory at No 1, instead of scraping in at No5!

Catembi wrote 623 days ago

Wow, I really need to read the rest of this! Is it available on kindle? I'm afraid I'm getting a numb a**e from trying to read it on the PC, but it would be just the thing for my commute! 6 stars, on my watchlist & I'd back it if I had space!

Lenny Banks wrote 624 days ago

Hi Nathan, I read chapter 7. (I know this is out of sequence but my pattern or habbit is to randomly pick a chapter from each book I read off the site, to get a smaple of it). This was very interesting to me as I have worked with people with OCD as part of my research into my book. This is more comment than people are aware, mainly beacuse people do hide away a lot, it was facinating reading your take on people regretting their decisions not missed opportunities. This book is a great way to raise understanding and awareness so both those with and those without can get along better. Well done, I hope it does very well for you.

Kindest Regrards and Best Wishes
Lenny Banks - Tide and Time: At The Rock
I would be interested in your comments about my book if you were able to find time, there isn't anyone with OCD in this book, but I intended to raise awareness in a sequal by including such a chartacter. Thanks.

MJ Hawkin wrote 625 days ago

From the very first scene, I genuinely liked Gary. What you've created here is a real man--a character with as many facets and layers as anyone I've ever met, and I commend you very highly for that.
You appear to have struck the golden balance between a story that is character driven or plot driven...and you've done it masterfully.
It's tense, it's fascinating, and I just am enthralled.
You've gained a fan.
--MJ

Tarzan For Real wrote 626 days ago

Nathan I wanted to come back to this for a re-visit. And it never disappoints.

Your command of the dialogue and the psychological aspects of each character no matter how minor is the greatest strength of this. It's evident you have studied the facets and the dynamics of human interactions thoroughly. You expose the frailty in all of us, the tendency toward anger and violence we possess, and yet allow some glimpse of redemption and forgiveness toward humanity throughout Gary's journey.

Your close to the top spot for a reason. This "Dexter-like" character with the duality of good and evil in co-existence bring us a compelling character and an enriching journey inside his daily life.

Can't wait to see your future novels and how they turn out.--JL "The Devil Of Black Bayou"

Nathan O'Hagan wrote 626 days ago

Cheers Stoo-art!

I'd encourage everyone to read this and get it onto the Editor's List - Top Ten is great, but not great enough for a book like this...

Stu
Ghosts in the Corner

Stuart J Roberts wrote 628 days ago

I'd encourage everyone to read this and get it onto the Editor's List - Top Ten is great, but not great enough for a book like this...

Stu
Ghosts in the Corner

Nathan O'Hagan wrote 629 days ago

A terrific book, well deserving of that green arrow - ED next month!!!



Fingers crossed!!!!!!

Cara Gold wrote 629 days ago

A terrific book, well deserving of that green arrow - ED next month!!!

Debbie Coope wrote 631 days ago

The dismal town seems to reflect Gary's state of mind. It's not a pretty sight when the control he's trying to exert over his life is, in fact, controlling him. OCD has made him a prisoner rather than free, which he thinks he is, living on the edge of society, like the scum that he hates.

This book is written very well. Gary comes across as a character full of anger and defiance, who we can empathise with, but I wouldn't say he is likeable. The outbursts say it all. Poor nephew.

I like the small cast of characters, because this is all about Gary. I'm not sure if he will find the world is not a cold place, though. Having read all the chapters available, I think that Gary secretly enjoys his phobias and acronyms.

A highly rated and insightful read.

Debbie.

Chancelet wrote 633 days ago

Hi Nathan, read into the third chapter. Interesting read. Makes me think of Taxi Driver mixed with What About Bob?, and a little of American Psycho, without the killing, at least so far. It's hard to know what to expect, where the story's going. Maybe it's more of a character driven story than a plot driven one?

I hope to read more.

MarkAM wrote 633 days ago

A very interesting treatise of a young man's struggle to make sense of a complex and sometimes mean-spirited world. Yet, with the central character's involvement in professionally assisted and self analysis, the reader gets the feeling that Gary does realize that the world is not really such a cold place, as suggested by the book's title. Although the book is incomplete at this time, it appears that Gary will eventually come to the realization that he can overcome depression by looking to himself for guidance and by learning that however other people may behave or whatever may be the circumstances around him; then Gary may come out on top of his situation by ultimately not letting others influence him. Just a supposition at this point. Birkenhead reminds of my rather insular home town which I walked away from almost forty-five years ago; and this work certainly illustrates how certain communities which are not progressive in mind can certainly breed contempt. It will be good to see how everything is resolved in the other chapters. Characters are very well defined in Gary's observations and experiences. The writing is very acute in its serious overtones with well-placed comic relief. My best wishes for the success of the completed book.

- Mark
"I'll Look to the Sky."

Lynne Heffner Ferrante wrote 633 days ago

Nathan - I have read the first six chapters and intend to finish the rest tonight, I have to tell you that I actually know Gary, although his name is not Gary, and I can truly tell you that your portrayal of Gary is so real and true that I am unable to describe my emotions about it. Your mastery of prose and your impeccable attention to detail and dialogue are intensely satisfying. I am not familiar with this particular geographical location since I live in New York, but I can actually see Gary's surroundings growing around me.The experience of being drawn into your pages is more than that of reading, it is as if the reader is right there experiencing it all. Whatever Gary's faults and foibles and disabilities are, he is very real, and very sympathetic. Thank you for offering me this journey into his mad world.
Lynne Heffner Ferrante, "An Untenable Fragrance of Violets"

Mommy Lynn wrote 635 days ago

You have a strong voice that grabs readers instantly and never lets go. Everything flows wonderfully. The only thing that held me back as a reader was the language, but that is a personal preference, not a criticism; and I can see how the use of it accentuates the character's negativity. I'm interested to see how your book progresses.

HateFaceCore wrote 635 days ago

I find myself in awe of your writing. I felt so inspired after reading. When I wasn't deep into the characters conversation, I was either laughing or in shock. This work of fiction was well thought out and deserves the star rating I had given it.

Daniel Murano
The One That Binds

Becky Jenkins wrote 636 days ago

It is on my watch list! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

GOTHIC-PAGE-TURNER wrote 638 days ago

Nathan, your first sentence reminds me of where I'm from - somewhere between Wigan and Ormskirk - you can probably guess. Its littered with beer cans and used scratch cards - i can feel your pain - arhhhhhhhhhhhh - i will read this properly asap and back you , and well done ! Looks like a top novel. Alison
ps if you've researched ocd - i would be interested to know if you could help me with a charcter of mine, a doctor with ocd - cleanliness/washing hands obsession. AJB

A Nerdy Rogue wrote 638 days ago

Well firstly, I really like the way you write. I find I just sort of really connect with your writing style and characters because I write in a similar way. :)
I found your story to be very different than what I have read on here, granted I only joined Authonomy last night- It was a much different experience.
The one thing that bothered me was that though the area was well described it was more described in the way of the main character's perception of it, as opposed to a generalized description. Other than this - this book definitely makes my bookshelf. I hope you'll like mine and give it a similar courtesy. Haha :)

Really good job - kudos!

- Bree

Elsie Jones wrote 639 days ago

Reading through these chapters I've found this book to be thus far not necessarily enjoyable but definitely compelling to read.

Part of what makes this so interesting, in my opinion, is that Gary is not an entirely sympathetic character. Any sympathy that I felt for him when he was experiencing his anxieties was balanced out by his apathy and anger, all three of which I think were well expressed and integrated into one another. Despite not particularly liking Gary, I still wanted to read more of his thoughts about the world around him which is a solely a testament to your skills as a writer. Having an unsympathetic but interesting character was a refreshing change from the norm.

If anything, I felt that Chapter 12 seemed disjointed from the rest of the chapters and almost incomplete. It seemed as though it belonged to a larger chapter later on in the book.

Overall, I think this is well-written and highly interesting. The genre is not one I'm a big fan of but I would still buy this book and I can already think of a number of people that I would recommend it to as well.

dave farrington wrote 643 days ago

Hi Nathan,

I've read all that you have posted and overall, I'm impressed. Gary is an interesting and complex character and his interactions with the other characters are convincing and amusing. His relationship with his family is conveyed particularly well, and that with the therapist is funny although perhaps requires a bit more subtlety in places.

Usually, I feel quite confident about what I think is wrong with books I read here, but with yours I'm much less sure. Maybe there's nothing wrong with it. So my criticisms are not really criticisms, more questions, although I suppose they are loaded questions.

I'm not sure about the opening focussing on the (other) unbalanced character. It seems like a bit of a distraction and perhaps strains credulity a little. I'm sure there are many deranged people in Birkenhead but it seems a bit of a coincidence to meet two of them in the first page. I think opening with whatever chapter it is (Four?) where Gary describes his morning routine would work better at introducing him and would highlight his OCD. I think it would be good to introduce the full extent of his OCD at an earlier stage as at first he just comes across as mildly anti-social. Also better to see his OCD in action than simply have him tell us that he suffers from it.

I'm also not sure about one aspect of Gary's worldview (or maybe it's two connected aspects) - his apparent confidence that his way of life is superior to that of others and his rather snobbish contempt for virtually everyone he meets. I don't have a problem with him thinking like this some of the time or even most of the time, but it might be good to see some questioning or self-doubt creep in occasionally. In a similar way, although I really enjoyed his outbursts against individuals who offend him - therapist, neighbours, family, job interviewer, I'm not entirely convinced by his 'state of the nation' rants, one of which takes up an entire chapter.

There isn't a strong sense of plot, which is fine providing there is enough of something else to keep us reading. Along with the humour, interest in Gary seems what is likely to sustain the reader's interest. I don't think it's necessarily useful to debate whether or not Gary is a 'sympathetic' character or not - he is what he is. But I do wonder if Gary might need a little more, apart from his intelligence, by way of a redeeming feature to help us sustain our interest. I'm also not sure yet if there is a sense of him becoming progressively more out of control, although his assault on the chair suggests there might be. Without going over the top (e.g. a high-school massacre) I think a clearer sense of this might also help to move things along.

As I said above I'm not sure about any of this but they are some of my thoughts on your very interesting piece of work. I hope you make to the ED sooner rather than later and you're pretty close now.

Regards
Dave F




Joshua Roebuck wrote 645 days ago

The people fiddling with their iPods on the train in Chapter 1 are probably hoping they will be able to record a conversation involving your characters. If I could steal your talent for dialogue I would. Absorbing, exhilarating, shocking, realistic. And the narrative is just as good.
JR

Odette67 wrote 646 days ago

Wow i have read to Chapter five and am impressed. I have a friend who has ocd so understand. My only real comment is that the reader doesnt understand what OCD is until chapter four.

Will read on later this evening.

Please do look at my books
http://www.authonomy.com/books/45554/off-the-rails/
and http://www.authonomy.com/books/45472/back-to-you-/

Off the rails has only just gone live.. would like to know what you thanks

Many thanks Kate