Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review of The "No Hellos Diet"

             There are plenty of reasons for you to not like "The No Hellos Diet":  it is written in the second person which you may find gimmicky or strange, its paragraphs are one often sentence statements which you may find thin, lacking or undescriptive. You may find the main character unusual or disgusting, his relationships flawed his life disturbing. You may find Uptown Chicago, the environment in which he lives, frightening and cold, his job boring, his body decaying. You are kind, confused and you only have one friend: your ex-girlfriend whom you no longer love. But this book is about you. So you better learn to deal with it.
          There is an undercurrent of fear and paranoia that runs through the work: a piece of taffy could take out all your teeth, you watch people leaving a train to come out twice in case they are extras and you your life is fake. But they never are, and the taffy doesn't pull your teeth out. Perhaps you meditate on the fear and pain because they will make your life more interesting, more bearable in the monotony of work. There is however a certain comfort in the monotony of working a menial labor job at a giant department store: the security, the money, the safety from the streets.
            Most of the conversations that occur in the book are meaningless or incomprehensible. Simply repeating what the other person says or simply saying gibberish can have more meaning that speaking your mind. In a very funny section the question of what makes you a good person is considered: in the world of The No Hellos Diet (and ours really) charity can only fix a problem temporarily, kindness, may only elicit strange looks or suspicion but scrumptioness? Scrumptioness is the highest ideal, appreciated by all especially the millions of readers of romance novels. When conversation breaks down and love is impossible a high five becomes the best and most intimate form of connection with those around you: a brief, intense, universal sign of camaraderie, love and acceptance.3
             The No Hellos Diet is a perfect reflection of life: beautifully rendered mundanity that takes place in a dirty, poor, desperate place which is punctuated by small beautiful moments of blinding joy and sadness which then spiral off into transcendence. Hours or weeks can go by which require only a single sentence to accurately describe the few events that occur during that time. There is nothing really to this work except unadulterated human experience which makes it more beautiful than anything which could come from imagination. Those around you are simple, vulgar, misunderstood and misunderstanding. You experience total freedom, but have to ask yourself what really does that freedom get you in the end? Every time you see yourself, reflected in someone's eye or in the cellophane packaging of an item you are stocking you only see a small bit of white light. Your soul perhaps?
           This is modern literature at its finest: no dwelling on the role of the internet or endless product name dropping. It is a study on the irony of feeling intensely alone while living incredibly close to millions of other and the small attempts we must constantly make to reach out to them in order to stay alive. A lesson in how to find beauty in the passing of time, in the solipsistic exchanges that occur at your job or random exchanges that occur on a dirty crowded street corner.

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