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First Page: Lost Pages ( unpublished) – Black Humour/Relationships

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Note from Jane: I debated about not posting this because of the content, particularly the references to the females in this piece (not to mention the odd style choices for punctuation), but in the end felt that there was some constructive feedback that we could give here at Dear Author.


OlyPub

I am talking to Max about the similarity between Paris and Calcutta when he starts rolling a joint. He has carefully stashed away some for the evening. Our taxi ambles away easily when the driver sniffs the dope and looks back…I look at Max who is coolly going about his job…mixing tobacco and grass in the right proportion…stoking the joint so that it holds…licking the rolling paper finally…French (Europeans as I get to learn later) are really fond of tobacco…Max says his biggest discovery of India is…well…cheap cigarettes…

Driving through the bylanes of Calcutta at night… dead communists lying at crossroads with dead Englishmen…Mr. AJC bose running parallel to one Mr.. Elgin…(howdy gentlemen…bhadralok…)roads are almost deserted and not all of them lead to the Park street….but our taxi that night does lead to that hallowed street…to the most classless place in the entire city…where there’s a drink for all…Olypub…where the maître d’ will ‘accidentally’ spill over extra booze from the jigger into your glass…

The taxi stops…Max and I enter Oly with great expectations, much lesser cash and quite a few stares…Max tells me he’s of sick of being stared at in Calcutta…I wonder whether I will be stared at if I am in Paris… meanwhile I am looking for a seat and true to the place’s reputation there’s none…bearded communists are drinking with the same élan as a group of college going kids…they are all here to drink…a great leveler like death…a virtual toast from my side to the sincere buggers…cheers…

Max approaches the college gang for a light and is obliged by a nymph (sorry for the lack of a more polite word, but to be honest she will behave true to the word as the night proceeds). Max is pretty cool at this…striking casual conversations at ease “ you have a light on you” or just his European good looks smile…with strangers…pretty effective…the gang is ready to adjust us on their table ( all smokers…)

We order a drink as the kids rattle off in Bengali…I can speak broken Bengali so I try to catch words and interpret…..bhalo…khabo…etc etc….but finally give up and order for a vodka for myself…the nymph asks me if I’ve heard about Parikrama…who are performing at Someplace else at the park hotel…I nod in the affirmative…Parikrama…the bestest (arguably) rock band in India…apparently they play Floyd better then Floyd themselves ( ever since Gilmour and Waters parted ways)..are playing next door… “So why the hell are we here…”asks Max ( who is high on a joint and down on a peg)…I give him a stern look since I don’t want to declare in front of a few college going kids that we don’t have cash on us (he’s smiling back..the French fool) and liquor at park hotel will burn holes into his pocket so deep that he could scratch his knees..

There is an ugly looking Bengali chick among the kids who’s staring at me. Ugly women are my forte…easier to get and and easier to dump. No…( belch) strings ( belch followed by another belch) attached. I know already I am going to detest her, her body, her feelings for me eventually. Infact I detest everything about her already except her body, the lust checks my disgust…lust for the bust, keeps away the disgust (my retort to an apple a day keeps the doctor away). In no time we are four down ( four and a quarter thanks to the deary waiter)…and life is much better…max and nymph are sharing a joint…(not so) ugly chick has placed her arm next to mine…so the intentions are clear…gulp, gulp..five down..

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

16 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 06:19:35

    Strange that you’d submit this here, but, for what it’s worth…

    I love ellipses. I spend half my life typing ellipses. And then I spend the other half of my life going through and taking almost all of them out. In this piece, I don’t see the point of them. Possibly you were going for some sort of stream-of-consciousness effect, but the problem is that there’s really no consciousness here. Until the end, when we finally get a little insight into the narrator’s (nasty) mind, we’re just being told about external events.

    I assume you were trying for a similar effect with all the parentheses? It didn’t work for me, but if you’re committed to them you could at least delete the space you have between the opening bracket and the first letter in some but not all of them. It messes up your formatting. But, really, I’d try to get rid of them. Again, I don’t see how they’re effective.

    Have you tried writing this scene with standard punctuation?

    In terms of the content – well, I’m not sure what you’re going for. Nothing really happens in this scene. The stated genre is humour, but there’s nothing funny here. I guess what you’ve really done is establish setting and authorial voice.

    The setting might be interesting, but the voice annoys me too much to want to continue. But I suspect I’m not your target audience. I find myself wondering who that audience may be.

  2. MJones
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 06:29:54

    Punctuation can really hurt a piece. What might have been gripping, gritty and something that would make otherwise conservative readers clutch their pearls becomes a jumbled hodge-lodge of thought, counter thoughr and stream of consciousness writing.

    I don’t know what the point is, I don’t know what the story is. Narrator spends an inordinate amount of time rambling through each paragraph.

    I don’t think this is ready for other eyes.

  3. SAO
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 06:39:08

    I’m not keen on stream-of-consciousness and I hate first person, but a Frenchman in India with an Indian friend looked interesting enough to read on. I didn’t get the dead communists and dead Englishmen lying at crossroads, because the street names weren’t familiar to me. But, it wasn’t jarring enough to kill my interest.

    Then I hit the misogyny. The narrator isn’t Max’s Indian woman lover, he’s a sleazy guy who will hit on women he finds disgusting to get his rocks off. If you want me to read on, you’ve got to give me a strong hint on page 1 that the sleaze is going to undergo a change pretty promptly or get his comeuppance.

    The only suggestions I’ll make are:
    1) a little ellipsis goes a long way and
    2) A hint on page 1 that the ugly Bengali “chick” might slice off his balls would do wonders to up the comedy factor, my interest, and turn this page into a winner. The travails of a hapless, horny eunuch might be hilarious.

    I hope you didn’t think anyone would like your narrator.

  4. Nemo
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 07:52:42

    Honestly? Sorry to be harsh, but this sounds like wannabe literature: the odd formatting, the drugs, the male characters, the unlikable narrator. Having read a lot of literature I wouldn’t read on. Nothing here hints at something deeper. These are regular words rearranged to look different. The style doesn’t enhance the words and the words aren’t good enough to hold up the work even with standard punctuation and style. That you submitted it to DA also makes me incredibly wary. It is so outside the zone of what this site usually reviews that I wonder why you think the readership of this site would be a good fit for critiquing your story. It makes me wonder if you know who your audience is and what appeal you are going for. Not to say that the readership can’t be into literature and experimental styles, but I don’t think that’s what they come here for. Perhaps find a blog that does this sort of writing?

  5. Sunita
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 08:27:19

    I like the dead Indians and dead Englishmen crossroads phrase. But basically all I get from this is that a couple of guys are smoking a joint before they go into a bar to drink and hopefully get laid.

    There’s a lot of name-dropping here to let us know you’re in Kolkata (OlyPub, the Park Hotel, Parikrama playing there, etc.), and I like the sense of place I get, but everything is tourist-level well-known. AJC Bose and Elgin Road aren’t bylanes, so I assume the narrator is looking at the bylanes as the taxi drives north, and “bhadralok” is jarring given its placement after Elgin.

    I’m not even sure the narrator is Indian; travelers who spend months in India usually pick up a few words, and this is the type of story one might tell. If this is about a couple of European dudes (or one European & an Indian who’s bumming around with him) hanging out in Kolkata, getting high and getting laid, the writing and story are going to have to be really good to make it work.

  6. DS
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 08:41:57

    Sharp nose the taxi driver has to smell dope before it’s lit. That was my first thought. My second thought is that this should b a short story because its not going to hold my interest as a novel.

  7. theo
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 09:41:08

    This is so poorly punctuated that I’m completely confused. The only thing I really got from this is you have a douchebag narrator looking for ugly women to have sex with and I’m asking myself why I should spend any more time with him than I already have.

    And then I just want to take a shower.

  8. Maura
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 09:55:42

    I know you’re going for stream of consciousness, but I couldn’t read past the first paragraph because of the ellipses. Ellipses are not periods.

  9. Shaya
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 10:21:07

    I would not be put off by the subject matter, and in fact might find it funny if it were well written. This page is a mess. The ellipses and the paranthetical phrases need to be done away with. Use standard punctuation and word your sentences so that the parentheses are not needed. Before you get into the narrator’s penchant for being a tool, give me something to like about him, or at least feel sorry for him about. Right now, I’m just waiting for somebody in the bar to take him out back and beat the living daylights out of him. Dark humor (not black humor) is one thing, and I quite enjoy it, but this piece is a far cry from being funny even if the numerous style errors were corrected.

  10. Carol McKenzie
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 10:24:29

    @DS: in defense of that one point: pot has an odor, even before it’s lit. Depends on the quality of the pot. But in Calcutta? With open windows? Not sure that subtle smell would stand out.

    @Author: ellipses are not your friend. I love them, and, as Kate does, I end up taking out most of them. They actually do the opposite of whatever you intended (as do the parenthesis). They detract more than they add. Think of Coco Chanel’s advice: a woman should always remove one piece of jewelry before leaving the house. A writer should always remove one, if not more, ellipses before submitting their work.

    If you are going to insist on using them, get the formatting correct. It’s three for an ellipse, not four or five, or one for a period and then three. Same for the parenthesis. (word)…no spaces between the parenthesis and the last word.

    As far as the content, I was gamely trying to work my way through, thought the scene was sort of interesting, although I was waiting for something to happen to keep me interested, especially if I was going to have to continue wading through the punctuation.

    Got to the ugly chick paragraph and my face went numb. I realized the narrator was a man, and I realized he’s not someone I’m even remotely interested in spending my time and money getting to know.

    There are places for characters like this, but IMO, not as the narrator of a story. And as SAO said, he either needs to be redeemed pretty quickly, or get his ass knocked to the floor by the (ugly) Bengali chick.

    I’m also wondering if there aren’t some stereotypes buried in this page that might come back to bite you. I’m not Indian, so I can’t comment with authority, but I wonder.

  11. wikkidsexycool
    Mar 30, 2014 @ 11:12:12

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this. If I may, the first thing I did was start trimming your scenes and adding a few words:

    I am talking to Max about the similarity between Paris and Calcutta when he starts rolling a joint. Our taxi ambles away easily when the driver sniffs the dope and looks back. I look at Max who is coolly going about his job, mixing tobacco and grass in the right proportions, stoking the joint so that it holds, licking the rolling paper. Max says his biggest discovery of India is cheap weed.

    Driving through the bylanes of Calcutta at night roads are almost deserted and not all of them lead to the Park street, but our taxi does lead to that hallowed street. To the most classless place in the entire city where there’s a drink for all. Olypub, where the maître d’ will ‘accidentally’ spill over extra booze from the jigger into your glass.

    Max and I enter Oly with great expectations, much lesser cash and quite a few stares. Max tells me he’s of sick of being stared at in Calcutta while I am looking for a seat, and true to the place’s reputation there’s none. Bearded communists are drinking with the same élan as a group of college going kids.

    Max approaches the college gang for a light. He’s pretty cool at striking casual conversations with ease, asking “you have a light on you?” Maybe it’s just his European good looks or his smile with strangers that’s pretty effective. The gang is ready to make room for us at their table.

    We order a drink as the kids rattle off in Bengali. I can speak broken Bengali so I try to catch words and interpret…..bhalo…khabo…etc etc….but finally give up and order for a vodka for myself. One of the college girls asks me if I’ve heard about Parikrama, a band performing at the park hotel. I nod in the affirmative, telling her that Parikrama are the arguably the best rock band in India, and they play Floyd better then Floyd themselves.

    “So why the hell are we here?”asks Max, who is high on a joint and down on a peg. I give him a stern look since I don’t want to declare in front of a few college going kids that we don’t have cash on us. He’s smiling back like the French fool he is.

    This is just a quick edit, and I completely left out the last paragraph. Anyway, even somewhat cleaned up you’ve got a problem. Max appears to be more interesting than your narrator. So you’ve got to find some way to fix that. I’d suggest giving your main narrator some of the things you’ve got Max doing, because right now your lead is simply following Max, who appears to be the leader.

    Also, dropping terms like “nymph” and “ugly chick” without any real context is sure to piss off those who could plunk down money for your book. Your lead can be a womanizer and a fool, but he still has to be a likeable womanizer and fool. Right now he’s coming across like a bad version of the Two Wild and Crazy Guys skit on Saturday Night Live (played with gusto by Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin).

    This all has to lead somewhere, and right now I’m not sure that it does (check out the classic movie “Alfie” with Michael Caine for an example).

    Also, I don’t think this is where your story begins, but that’s just my opinion.

    I wish you the best with this, and maybe you can post a blurb on the changes you’ve made since it was submitted, or how the rest of the novel is going.

  12. Gaurav Thapar
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 01:45:22

    @wikkidsexycool: Thanks for your comments :P
    Overwhelmingly most reviews have not liked my ellipsis style of writing and also my lead character. Will correct the ellipsis aspect but about the character since a first page is sort of too short a piece to justify the reasons for the stupid and debauched behavior I don’t blame most reviewers. But thanks for the time you’ve spent on the feedback. Please check my blog for the first full chapter.
    Cheers

  13. Gaurav Thapar
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 01:47:22

    @Shaya: Dear Shaya Thanks for your comments.
    Agree with the ellipsis and parenthesis part but may be you do find some humour if you read the first full chapter on my blog gthapar.blogspot.in.
    Cheers

  14. Gaurav Thapar
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 01:49:17

    @Carol McKenzie: Thanks for your comments Carol. The ellipsis and formatting aspects are well taken, but would request you to read the first full chapter gthapar.blogspot.in for further reading. The misoginy continues but the full book delves into deeper aspects of the behaviour.
    Cheers

  15. Gaurav Thapar
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 01:52:06

    @Sunita: Dear Sunita Thanks for your comments.
    You may find some humour in the first full chapter on my blog gthapar.blogspot.in
    Cheers

  16. Gaurav Thapar
    Mar 31, 2014 @ 01:53:37

    @Kate Sherwood: Thanks for your comments Kate. Your points on punctuation and ellipsis are well taken. You can read the full first chapter on my blog gthapar.blogspot.in
    Cheers

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