by Eric Bogosian
(Simon & Schuster)

First Unitarian Church
1126 SW Park Ave
Saturday Nov 18, 7:30 pm

There's a difference between writing a story down and writing in a way that shows an understanding of how to use language, of how to be evocative.

I've been a fan of Eric Bogosian, though in the past his work has been intended for the stage and screen. His scripts, such as Talk Radio, were acted, not read. His debut novel, Mall, unfortunately illustrates how flat writing can become when it's dependent on a number of literary shortcuts and not supported by the interpretation of actors.

In this novel, a maladjusted drug addict named, subtly, Mal, kills his mother and heads for the mall to further his maladaptive behavior. Bogosian writes,"Taking a shotgun in each hand like some kind of Warner Brothers hero, he scuttled 10 feet to one side, shotgunning the cop car." It's hard to imagine a less developed delivery of a potentially powerful scene. In the following sentence, the character "...finishes his work...." We've all seen enough movies to fill in the scenes for ourselves, and most likely with more careful observation.

Instead of development through revealing dialogue, thoughts, and actions, we're told of Mal, "A minor debate broke out in his head about the caution he should be taking." The novel offers summary based on common understanding of stock characters and conflicts. At times, Bogosian reaches awkwardly for a literary device: "Mal was spent...He was as lively as a thousand-year-old Galapagos turtle on downs."

I say attend the reading, because Bogosian will most likely be dynamic on stage. But check the book out from the library, unless you're a hard-core fan of the author himself, regardless of product.