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Book review: <i>Glazed City Eyes</i> by Preston M Smith, Jacob McKinley

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the cover of the book

What makes a writer? Is it living the tortured life of an artist, or is it actually getting your shit together and... you know... writing?

The story

Jackson lives the kind of life he probably thinks Bukowski did, and while he spends the time he's not working a menial job writing poetry, he is really only tortured in his own mind. He has a job, at least, and he lives comfortably in an apartment with an old friend. He has a girlfriend who puts up with all of his shit, a good computer, and food, booze, and cocaine (which he pays for) whenever he wants.

All these things notwithstanding, Jackson isn't on a good path. His writing is erratic and he isn't sure what he's doing or the direction he should take his life. He wanders aimlessly, trying to figure out how to write about his life experience while not having any actual experiences. Until he meets Julius. Julius defies normal social niceties and lives on the fringes of society, and Jackson is immediately intrigued. Jackson figures maybe Julius can show him how to be a better artist inside, instead of making cosmetic attempts and getting nowhere.

The style

Glazed City Eyes is a self-published venture of Preston Smith and Jacob McKinley, and while it's written in the third person, the perspective is mainly limited to the main character, Jackson. This third person perspective is pretty important, because like so many characters on personal journeys, Jackson just isn't that likeable as a person. Hell, I wouldn't be friends with him. In the beginning, his image of himself as a 'writer' is pretty much structured on some external idea of what a writer does. He's painfully self-aware, with, as his therapist later confirms, a mild superiority complex. And while he has minor substance abuse issues, his issues pale in comparison to those of the men he's trying to emulate. If the reader of Glazed City Eyes is familiar with Bukowski, who is cited as one of Jackson's great influences, then the juxtaposition between Jackson and Bukowski is, in the beginning, stark. Jackson is really just going through the motions of living, under the impression that he's generally more profound than everyone else while not making the most of his actual reality. Bukowski, on the other hand, like many of his generation, lived his poetry, his despair, his joy, his post office job, his cavalier treatment of women, his alcoholism and homelessness and generally being a bit of a shit guy. He lived them as hard as he could. And that's what the character of Jackson learns, in a round about way. You have to live your art. You don't have to suffer for it, but you do have to live it.

For the first half of the novel I had absolutely no idea where the story was taking me, which is fine, because this was Jackson's journey and who knew where everything was going to end up? Jackson's mentor Julius, in hindsight, put me in mind of a TV show I once saw where somebody made fun of “always having a wise old black lady” stereotype – I mean, the dude is a wise old black man, and while I realise it's was probably intentional to have a mentor far out of Jackson's comfort zone, it did ring a bit “wisdom imparting-African-American”. It's fine, it works with the story, and Jackson and his poetry are better off because of it. In general, the story-line felt in hindsight as though I should have been able to guess it, but I didn't.

Because Glazed City Eyes is self published, there are certain things happening in the writing that would have been questioned by an editor. There were a couple of glaring typos, and there were a couple of really clunky bits in the writing that brought me right out of the reading experience. For example, the dialogue between characters is severely lacking in any kind of contractions, which meant in places it sounds robotic and forced. Some of the prose could have been tighter, and some of the phrasing is awkward. Aside from that, there is clear intention and development in the plot, and Glazed City Eyes is a story about what it is to be writer that will resonate with the right reader.

Who is this book for?

I imagine this book is most likely to appeal to aspiring writers, who will find something in common with Jackson's journey. It may even help to inspire them a little, in distilling what it means to be a writer

In short

Title: Glazed City Eyes
Author: Preston M Smith and Jacob McKinley
Publisher: Self published
Year published: 2013
Pages: 348
Genre(s): Modern fiction
Review Type: