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In Candyland It's Cool to Feed on Your Friends
by James Chapman
$12.00    190 pp.   ISBN 1-879193-05-1

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"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. Mr. 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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