Indie book a month - The Festival of Earthly Delights

9 January 2013 / 2 comments

I really wanted to love this book. The author looks likes a character from a lovable indie film, the title was engaging, the cover splashed with exotic intrigue and the blurb was promising. Call me superficial, but what really hooked me was the wide-eyed girl from Flight of the Conchords' quote saying that 'Boyd Darrow is as poetically drawn as J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield...'

Matt Dojny's The Festival of Earthly Delights is set in the make believe country of Puchai, a place where turtles are worshipped and people communicate with specialised winks and backward waves. Boyd Darrow has followed his girlfriend there for a new job, after she has been unfaithful with a colleague at work.

While the cultural differences are vaguely amusing, I can't say that I actually laughed at anything, which is a little problematic, given that it has been badged as a 'comic novel'. Boyd meanders along, and so does the reader, as there isn't a huge amount of dramatic tension. The book is written as notes to some guy called 'Hap'. Annoyingly, the reader doesn't find out who Hap is until towards the end. The characters are colourful but not compelling and I didn't find myself barracking for any of them.

Having said all this, the book does pick up in the second half, and if readers can persist, there are some events that unfold that are quirky and enjoyable enough to read. All the key ingredients are there, betrayal, unrequited love, mystery and a big lead up to a major event, however, perhaps it wasn't all mixed up enough to bring out the full flavour. A book like this is probably most appreciated by fans of Phaic Tan (by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Stitch).

Whilst I wasn't so excited about The Festival of Earthly Delights, I am excited by the publisher Dzanc Books. Dzanc Books was founded in 2006, with a vision to advance good writing and to promote community literacy. They run a Writers-In-Residence program in schools,  a mentoring program for writers and they have recently launched an International Literacy Program. They also have a $5000 Dzanc Prize for a fiction work in progress, but the difference with this prize is that the author has to also submit a community service project. In 2007 Publishers Weekly hailed Dzanc Books as 'the future of publishing'.

View The Festival of Earthly Delights on Amazon.


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