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read an excerpt
In Candyland It's Cool to Feed on Your Friends
by James Chapman
$12.00 190 pp. ISBN 1-879193-05-1
"Highly emotional, highly fragmented, amazingly inventive prose. Easily making it into my top 5 on the first read. I can't wait to dig through his other novels. Fully recommended. "
--severalwolves blog entry
"Events tumble onto one another, the whole narrative functioning like a sort of combination of imagism and experimental film....The novel is about indigestion and eating, both metaphorically and literally, with potatoes gaining a strange importance, but it is equally a meditation on the nature of art."
--Brian Evenson, Review of Contemporary Fiction
The author tells us, in a confessional mode, that the publication of one of his previous novels caused two of his best friends to stop speaking to him; they were upset at having been portrayed in print, especially at a time when one of them was emotionally unstable. The author then, in order to work through his guilt feelings for having ruined this friendship, begins to create a "fictional" version of the problem, in which he himself appears, thinly disguised as "Jim Chapman," a photographer who lives above a restaurant in a town called Candyland.
This narrator's life is filled with instances where he has failed people, or has betrayed their trust, and he is now paying a price: his guilty conscience has given him chronic indigestion. As he continues to exploit people for his art (including his girlfriend/doctor, his friend the performance-artist Albion, and above all his two young and vulnerable friends Dinah and David), his physical suffering grows worse and worse, until it's clear that the "therapeutic" aspect of fiction-writing has for this author become close to self-torture. As the author's attempt to create a fiction that would justify him breaks down, we are brought right up against one paradox of "confessional" art: by this very book, the author is actually repeating the original invasion of his friends' privacy, exploiting them all over again in order to produce this work of art as "apology."
The metaphor of art as a desire to consume others, to use them up in order to produce a product for the artist's own profit, pervades this book and creates a range of interrelated themes which, morally, are inescapable--they could be solved only by a renunciation of art itself. Chapman's failure to renounce his art has given us a book which should be of interest to readers concerned with the moral paradoxes that inhere in the act of creation.
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