Thursday, January 26, 2006

Harvey & Eck: A Book Review

I'm not sure that I have ever actually consciously read a review for a book. I just read whatever seems interesting, or more often go by what friends have recommended. To that end I was gonna check out a few proper book reviews before my own attempt so as to not completely shame myself before all of Internet-dom. Then I remembered the resume I posted to get this gig in the first place...check it. If Erin had wanted a professional review she would have gotten someone like Psychic Dumb Dum, if she wanted a learned one? Garrett would be the guy to get. Huh... and oh yeah, she did.

Sometimes I'll check out what a book says about itself on the back or the flyleaf, but tend to skim over words like "compelling," "edgy," or "gritty" and usually stay away from books that consider themselves "sexy," "sophisticated," or "sultry." Ooops... I just looked at the back of Harvey & Eck and saw two of the three strikeout words. In this case it's ok though because those words are on the cover, albeit the back cover and for me the cover does not exist. As a former graphic artist the cover sticks in my craw, but I'll get back to that.

Harvey & Eck is an epistolary novel (heh, got that from a fly leaf description of Lady Catherine by Jane Austen). This means that the whole book is written through letters, as in post office letters. This is something that could so easily come off unwieldy and awkward, and occasionally the book does catch a little on it's own form of delivery, but frankly this is a minor annoyance. It's the indomitable Harvey and fastidious Eck, their warmth and humanity, that drives the storyline and causes you to turn the pages.

I, for one believe absolutely in the power that writing has to change your life. Harvey and Eck chronicles these changes beautifully and tenderly through the most unlikely of correspondence. Harvey has a secret that she must tell someone, so she chooses a name at random from the phone book and begins writing. As you read her letters you will discover she has an off-beat take on life and a few serious problems as all the while you fall in love with her honesty and spirit. Eck is the object of her letter writing, a man of definite OCD tendencies... and a pure, if almost dead heart. It is her over-the-top and slightly off-color missives that kick starts old Eck and before he knows what has happened he is living and breathing once again.

As a mother and Christian woman I must note that the book is peppered with explicit language, "F" bombs and the like. None of the characters appear to have any problems with pre-marital sex and relatively minimal moral difficulty with infidelity. For me the language and amorality are overshadowed by the value of the story of metamorphosis and growth, but there ya have it. In other words if this kind of thing bugs you, consider yourself warned.

Back to that cover. I know I shouldn't judge a book by it's cover but DANG! the way I see it this cover is miles off the content. The only elements of the artwork that have any place is the motorcycle and the moody quality of the landscape. The computer generated image of a woman with painted on jeans? Wha...? This figure is everything that Harvey is not. Yes Harvey is a sexual creature but her sensuality is visceral and mortal. This CGI gal is pure fourteen-year-old boy fantasy; glossy where our heroin is vulnerable and as contrived as our Harvey is genuine. I think it's quite telling that the worst criticism I have for this book is the cover art.

Harvey and Eck is straight up, honestly delivered literature. I'd loan you my copy, but it's signed and I'm afraid you'd keep it. As it is, the cover is already looking a little beat and today I had to pry apart the top corner of pages 39-50 that had been stuck together by what appears to be smashed and dried banana.


garrett said...

Bon, this is beautifully done. Congratulations. This is an excellent tribute to Erin and in my opinion dead spot on regarding the book. Although I am a little less than halfway through the book, I have a feeling you have written in your review precisely what my reaction and thoughts will be as I finish reading it.

Good show!!

Shelli said...

It sounds good and Erin is pleased with the review. You did a good job and you took it seriously! Way to go.

Mama D said...

Reviews of movies or books usually bug me because they seem pretentious and usually are the opposite of my truth. As in, if the review says movie/book sucks, I will probably like it. If it's 5 stars all the way, I'll almost definately hate it. I'm difficult that way. Of course I knew I wouldn't feel this way about your review. It was very nicely written and makes me want to read the book AND I'd probably never heard of it otherwise.

gingerstory said...

That sounds like a very interesting format--all in good old-fashioned letters. Cool.