Review: Songs for the New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout
Title: Songs for the New Depression
Author: Edwards-Stout, Kergan
Length: 270 pages
Genre: Fiction, GLBTQ
Publisher / Year: Circumspect Press / 2011
Source: From the publisher for review.
Rating: -indie lit shortlist book-
Why I Read It: Indie lit shortlist book.
Date Read: 28/02/12
In this book we are introduced to Gabriel, a middle-aged man who knows he will shortly be facing death. Although new drugs are finally coming available, it seems it will be too late and Gabriel will succumb to AIDS. He is examining his life, sharing with us his past and why exactly he finds it lacking. From the first we can see he is a tad self-obsessed and worried about being perfect. He is concerned, throughout the novel, with having us see him how he wants us to, with having us think well of him, and with hopes that we will absolve him of responsibility for any past failings.
The book jumps from the prologue to a few months prior, telling the story of his meeting with his current partner. From there part two and part three both go back farther in time to explain more of what we’ve been given glimpses of. I didn’t think this was a great method to tell the story, I think I would have been more interested in the story if it had been a straight-linear narrative, though I understand why Edwards-Stout did it the way he did – he was able to include a major revelation at the end of each section which I suppose would draw people into the story and keep them reading.
Throughout the book, I was frustrated by Gabriel’s constant soul-searching and attempts to justify his behavior. The description seems to imply that he is trying to become a better person and that a few certain people help him in this, though he seems to always be failing. The book certainly shows this clearly. I felt that Gabriel at the beginning was the exact same Gabriel at the end, whether you are looking at his life or at the way the book was structured. At each point he has the same thoughts and discussions and is just as self-centered. I kept waiting for him to grow, but that moment never came. There was no character growth or development experienced, no matter how much he talked about wanting it.
My largest issue with book was that I found it dripping with misogyny was full of great quips and comments about how women are useless, if women are ugly they really have no purpose in life, and other gems like that. In addition, the author inserted jokes such as… “cuntree music”. I didn’t find that funny, I found it… odd and juvenile. A transgender preacher is mentioned… named “Dick Novagina”. This time not so much odd and juvenile but offensive. There were too many moments like this that distracted my reading and left me completely annoyed and disappointed. I can’t figure out if they were put in because the author found it funny, or if it was a way to try to get a reaction from readers. If the latter, it worked, but not in a good way.
If you have a thick skin to put up with the misogyny, which does show the characters state of mind and thoughts clearly and thus works toward showing his complete self-interest and lack of empathy for others, you may have a better time with this book than I did. If you like stories about characters examining their lives, about dealing with illness and disease, or with life in general, this may be a book for you. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.