Sunday, June 3, 2007

Entrekin by Will Entrekin (A)

EntrekinWhat keeps me going as a reviewer of POD material? Why would I spend my time reading this stuff on the computer screen? I think the answer has a great deal to do with the thrill of discovery of something spectacular among the coals; it is like hacking away a train through the Amazon jungle, only to discover a spectacular treasure. Entrekin, a story and poetry collection by Will Entrekin, is one such diamond in the rough.

Entrekin is filled with great writing. My favorites in this collection are:

What I Saw That Day, a gripping first person story about a young college graduate’s experience of walking home from Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks.

The first difference I noticed when I left my office building that afternoon, through those revolving doors and into the still-brilliant sun, was the smell. The air seemed heavy, as dense with dirt and dust and grit as it could possibly be without actually becoming solid; I could taste the grains in it, feel them rattle down my throat and into my lungs. I was several miles from the World Trade Center, on 40th and Madison, breathing the towers and the attacks and the fear into my body. Though I was several miles from the site of the attacks, they became a part of me, trapped in my lungs, in my eyes, in my memories, as crystallized as silica and asbestos.

The story deals, as many in this collection, with loss. Here the loss is not only personal to the protagonist but also to the nation. This theme of loss meshes with the theme of uncertainty as to what is real. When we experience loss, our sense of the real is assaulted, and we feel anxiety and stress. The Trade Center Towers coming down was an aspect of the unreal, the cinematic fantasy, replacing reality and forever changing us, frightening us and filing us with anxiety that has been exploited, in some sense, by politicians. So are the characters in this collection changed by their encounter with the unreal, sometimes never being able to separate the real from the unreal and becoming lost. One can only wonder whether we as a nation, following traumatic events, are not lost ourselves, still trying to shift through the images of true danger and the flickering shadows that seem everywhere.

In Addicted to Praise Poe manifests himself in the form of a black raven, asking that a young Parisian analyst, Augustine Dupin, investigate his death in America.

Baltimore is a new, raw city, bricks as pink as fresh skin and cobblestones the deep grey of a winter storm. I nearly gag on the smell, some grotesque combination of roasted nuts, ground shells, and horse sweat and waste. The air is so sharp and cold breathing feels like getting socked in the nose, and the men old enough to grow winter beards have, while the women’s faces are extra pink with rouge over windburn. I first secure a room for an extended stay, then visit the local constabulary.

The story has a surreal feeling to it, coming as it does form the viewpoint of an unreliable, possibly mentally ill first person narrator. The play on what is real and what is imagined is a frightening juxtaposition exploring one of the themes of this collection—the experience of mental illness.

This theme is elaborated once again in Factory life, a frighteningly vivid glimpse into what it must be like to suffer from schizophrenia.

My coworkers continuously talk to me. I try not to let myself get distracted from these tiny steel beads, but it is difficult; whispers in my ear, and their voices itch like wool in my brain, but I can’t scratch it.

How the World Will End, a story about the end of the world offers a disturbing vision of a possible end of the world that is at once vivid and fresh, escaping the temptations of the genre.

Temptation comes to Jesus in Imperfect Thirst, a story featuring the Temptress. This story caught my attention right away, as I turned the pages, because of the powerful voice of the character, a voice that compels the reader into character's world and predicament. The temptation of the temptress for the unwary traveler in the desert of the real is that of the quick fix, a relief from oppression of desolation created by loss of paradise, water, and life.

His head down, eyes closed, he didn’t see or hear the woman approach, only felt her shadow on his body. His mouth surprised him by watering and he swallowed by reflex, the first moisture his body had known in a long, long time. He’d known she would come, of course. She always did.

“You’re thirsty,” she told him. Her voice lilted like smoke, oozed in his head like oil.

Finishing the collection is the spectacular first chapter of his debut novel, A Different Tomorrow, which is included as a bonus at the very end. The first chapter of the novel is so very much what a good opening chapter should be. It opens, first of all, in the middle of action. The writing is clean, simple, and evokes a cinematic vision in the reader’s mind. There is nothing obtrusive here, no speed bumps or mislaid structural elements over which to trip. Consider this fragment:

A ski-masked man dressed all in black pointed a gun equipped with a long silencer at Chance’s father.

In college, Chance had trained in martial arts, and the entire world slowed as his training suddenly took control of his body: leapt him through the doorway to tackle the man with the gun. The man rolled even as he fell, and Chance’s father lunged toward the man — time snapped back to the room; a lot of things happened all at once. A sound like rapid-fire sneezes caught. Chance’s father cried out in pain, fell. Chance kicked at the man, but the man used the hand that wasn’t holding his gun to catch Chance’s foot, lifted hard and pushed. Chance’s feet came out from under him, but he twisted even as he fell so that he swept the man’s legs upon hitting the floor. The gun coughed when it hit the ground, and the computer monitor exploded.

The man twisted and his gun coughed again, again; Chance dove as bullets gone wild punched fist-sized holes into the wall behind him, and the man kicked him in the abdomen. All Chance’s breath steam-whistled out of him, and then the man smashed Chance across the face and he tumbled backward.

Another cough, and another: the man was shooting again, and then brick-wall pain blasted across Chance’s shoulder so hard it spun him around. He smashed front-first into his father’s desk. The man’s gun hacked, spat, again, then sprung-locked impotent. The man pushed it forward, forward, like he didn’t want it to believe it was empty.

Chance tried to move but…

Notice the flow of the action. It is poetic, cinematic, without any overwriting. And yet it is not so sparse that it renders the narrative inaccessible to the reader’s imagination. This is the writing of bestsellers.

Entrekin is a stellar collection of work by a writer of promise.

UPDATE (September 2015): This work is no longer in publication. If you're interested in reading this work, consider contacting the author via his website.

24 comments:

Henry Martin said...

Just to let you know, the empty paras are back on your blog. They look like this: !--[if !supportEmptyParas]-- !--[endif]--" ; when I view your reviews. It was gone for a while, but now it's back.

Anonymous said...

I won't argue that Entrekin is a great writer. I will however note that he is so damn full of himself that he's the one speaking of his book rather than letting the book speak for itself. If he's really so great, why is he using a self-publishing service? Why is HE the one incessantly promoting HIMSELF? Seems to me that if one is as noteworthy as his ego seems to believe he'd have no reason to blatantly promote himself all over Myspace. Until he is on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, he's just another faceless name with a giant head.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to pop in and say thank you. I really appreciate the kind words, and am really, really pleased you enjoyed it.

-Will Entrekin

Charles Sheehan-Miles said...

Anonymous:

Your post strikes me as kind of personal. Do you know the guy? Besides, this was a review of his book, not his personality.

You'd be surprised too to find that a hell of a lot of bestselling authors are out there "blatantly promoting themselves on myspace," too.

Not impressed with your arguments.

pod said...

Seriously over the top self-promoting tendencies are probably more of an asset than a vice in self-publishing.

Emily Veinglory: said...

p.s. yes, the stray code is back.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think that the guy on the front of this book looks like he's masturbating?

Mr Pedantic said...

I've just had a look at the preview for this book on Lulu. I think Mr Entrekin's writing career would benefit from a better grasp of English grammar.

Emily said...

Think about it, dude. What's worse, being Will, or being someone driven to follow around after him, griping?

Anonymous said...

In my humble opinion I feel that Will already is a 'good writer' - "greatness" takes time. That term isn't used to describe someone who owns their own jet because they sold 40million copies of formulaic romance, action, or Buddha forbid -- Vampire wannabe novels.

Terminology in opinion on any given writer are just that... an opinion. Owned by the giver or collective givers of said opinion, good or bad.

If Will had the money, I'm sure he'd have a billboard on Ventura with him in that goddamn hat... that's just Will. And I'm not going to fault him for that. Every writer who has ever had any success started with 'self-promotion'. It's called a submission for all you non hackers out there.

One must also not confuse self-promotion or confidence with "arrogance". There are distinct differences and if you're too intellectually inept to know the difference -- accept your fate and move on with your lives. Burger King is always hiring and I hear they provide hats.

peace love dope

-norm

Anonymous said...

Has the book been reviewed by someone outside of the incestuous group known as 'myspace bloggers'? Someone a little less bias perhaps?

Anonymous said...

These MySpace bloggers really don't like to be criticised, do they?

Mr Pedantic said...

The problem with reviewing Mr Entrekin's book in its entirety is the price. £9.36 for the paperback and £5.50 for the download. This is a bit steep for 163 pages of what appears to be a collection of self-indulgent writing exercises. Let's face it, I don't think the Podler had to pay for the privilege of reviewing Mr Entrekin's book. Now if he'd like to make the download free for a limited period...

Anonymous said...

I love this quote from his own description of the book.

'I'm supposed to tell you it's exciting, thrilling, entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny and break-your-heart touching, deceptively simple and genuinely moving, but I think I'd rather just let you read it and decide all those things for yourself.'

Isn't that good of him to let the reader think for themselves?

Emily Veinglory: said...

To anonymous and sockpuppets: get a life. They book has been reviewed outside that circle right here. The more evidence I see of bad-natured stalking the more inclined I become to review it myself.

Mr Pedantic said...

Just to clarify, the only place I have come across Mr Entrekin's work is on this blog. It really does show up the fragility of some people's egos when they cannot cope with criticism. If Mr Entrekin's acolytes wish to promote him as a writer of some note then they must be prepared for others to disagree. I would assume Mr Entrekin also wishes to make some financial gain from his work. He will fail to do this if his sole contribution to literature is to write self-aggrandising work and garner the praise of like-minded egoists.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pedantic:

Just wanted to point out that Entrekin's Lulu page does not have a preview for his book. There are free downloads of certain parts of the book. You've already stated that the price is too steep for your tastes, so obviously you haven't actually read the book. So, that said, how are you able to ascertain that it's a collection of "writing exercises"?

Please enlighten. Perhaps, the rest of us are just too lazy to see what's so obvious.

-Monique Duvall

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous,

So you think he's a "great writer," but that no one should read his book because he's "full of himself"?

It appears you are basing your entire opinion of Entrekin on some MySpace vendetta. Have you ever actually met the man? Sounds like you believe everything you read on MySpace. Do you also believe that Tom is actually listening when you send him an email?

Besides, if we judged authors by their personalities, half our "classics" would be thrown out in the name of pompous ignorance.

I don't read anything because I like or dislike the author. I read based on talent and merit.

Yours,
Nicole Owens

Mr Pedantic said...

Ms Duvall,

If you follow the link to Mr Entrekin's book on Lulu you will find another link which states 'Preview This Book'. It is at the top of the page under the image of the front cover. As for this being a collection of writing exercises, I think that's a fair assumption given the eclectic nature of the work and the fact that Mr Entrekin is a student on a writing course. Of course, if Mr Entrekin wishes to correct my erroneous assertion, I welcome his contribution to this discussion. Unfortunately, he is noticeably conspicuous by his absence.

Mr Pedantic said...

My apologies to Mr Entrekin regarding the availability of his work. Having now looked at his Lulu Storefront, I see there are a number of downloads available free. I will avail myself of the opportunity to experience the great man for myself.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pedantic,

Thanks for the clarification. I did not click on the provided link when I visited Entrekin's Lulu page. I instead went to the general Lulu site and searched for his name. Interesting that the preview option isn't on his storefront.

I try to never make assumptions about work I'm largely unfamiliar with. As for Entrekin's absence, I don't think it's his place to hijack PODler's blog. If he did jump into this discussion, it would do nothing but put the focus on his persona as an author--not the work itself.

I haven't read the entire book yet, but I'm willing to keep an open mind. I don't think PODler would give someone a great review if the work was crap. In any case, you're reading this blog. So, you must have some respect for its writer to even waste your time.

--Monique Duvall

Just Rachel said...

I don't think anonymous knows Will's work. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I respect that. Not digging at all. Keeping an open mind here. I can understand how people may find him full of himself.
It is my thinking that those people may see only half the picture. Writing about characters.
Writers are characters.

In my opinion, I like the route of self publishing for Will. He's researched it and made that path his choice... It seems to have worked well for him. The eye on the prize is not about the heartburn acid reflux.
It really speaks volumes about the guy. While he may be a "rock star" (and could go big time) of writing, the fact remains that he is young, still trying to find his way, and he's still damn good. The material is opening new doors at every turn, always fresh. There is no matter regarding what any person has to say about his personality traits because that's just bias. (opinion) Others may choose to take a different path, Hanzel.

just rachel said...

My apologies.

There are many anonymous here.
Everyone has an opinion, or at least I believe that whether they may be positive or negative, critical or in praise, they are all valid.
Writers strive for greatness is it is what they truly love.

Have a great night all,
Rachel

Anonymous said...

There is a large difference between arrogance and drive. If you don't believe in yourself, who will? One has to be driven to get ahead in the world. Yes, Mr. Entrekin self-published his book instead of waiting for someone else to do it, but why is that to be criticized? He is controlling his own fate instead of waiting for agents who are only interested in selling product.

As for Mr. Entrekin's grammar... Any artist can take such liberties. If they didn't, everything you read, listened to, and looked at, would be the same. There would be a mold of what is "correct" and anything deviating from such a mold would be wrong. It would be a very boring place. There are grammatical errors in every book that is deemed "classic". These stylistic differences are what makes authors good and unique.

So please... Before you continue to bash someone who is trying to realize his dream, consider how hard he must have worked to write these stories and to publish it himself. And think if you would have the same courage to do what he has done.

It is one thing to constructively criticize someone, it is a completely other thing to be negative to no purpose. If you think the book is awful, give examples why and how he could improve it...instead of attacking his personality and just saying it is bad.