Monday, 23 June 2014

News Pigs by Tim Wilson (VUP) 2014

This is the first book that I haven’t finished for this blog.  I got half way.  I was looking forward to reading Wilson’s second book because I enjoyed his first novel but alas…I just don’t ‘get’ News Pigs.  The novel is about Tom Milde, a down and out poet and print media hack living in New York who has been wooed into TV news by poverty and a lack of options.   The invitation to TV news media sends Tom on a helter-skelter scramble to get to the location of a mass shooting for a live cross to the PLC news channel.

While hoofing it to location, Tom quips about his home-country PLC (which is meant to be NZ but isn’t), the media, America, his non-existent love life, and his journalist heroes and competitors.  The novel (well, the first half anyway) reads like a mix between a British farce and a satire, which sounds like fun - but the novelty of using symbols and bold type lets it down and makes it hard to read.

There are frequent swear words in the novel that are indicated by symbols rather than letters e.g. $#@&bird and Mother £%#$er which I just found annoying – if you want to say fuck and it’s appropriate to the character and situation, then just say fuck.  And then there’s the words in bold, and CAPS and black space and love hearts which all seems a bit juvenile, like when I was in form two and I had one of those pens that had 6 colours and I wrote each sentence for a homework assignment in a different colour.  And then there’s the footnotes which I ended up ignoring.

Perhaps using all these whiz-bang affects could  be a commentary on the short attention span and frantic pace of media, and the juvenile cuss words and fonts perhaps reflect the lack of maturity of Tom and the media he works in, but I just found it exhausting.  John Gardner talks about reading novels as entering a vivid dream, but Wilson’s writing continually shook me out of the narrative dream.  This could have been Wilson’s aim, but I’m not sure why.

The last novel I reviewed (Carnival Sky) dealt with journalism, and I read a review where Marshall was panned for not using the right language in regards to a tweet.  While I felt completely assured that Wilson knows the media he was writing about because he was the TVNZ correspondent in New York, I finished Marshall’s book because of the characterisation and his proficiency with emotional language as the novel went on.  However, with Wilson’s novel the character seems superficial, as perhaps it should be for a farce/satire, but the language and the use of every bell and whistle was distracting all the way through.

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