Pre-orders ship next week.
From the review:
Like adolescence, too, the pieces in Fun Camp run a superlative range. Durham gives us moments of mind-blowing insight and moments of devastating heartbreak … it’s like a dark blue water balloon coming at you at nighttime.
And then instead of excerpting myself, I’m going to excerpt an interpretation Joe Riipi formed-and-sorta-abandoned while reading the book:
Here’s a long question, but I think an important one. On my first read, I thought of “fun camp” as an allegory for social networking. What struck me, especially in the first sections, was this phenomenon that occurs at camp (and, I think, in a lot of life) in which a person must create a kind of avatar of him or herself. There’s a piece toward the front called “Summer After Summer of Love” in which the voice is trying to reconcile the “this summer” self with a “past summer” self. There’s a key difference between a self at camp and a self in real life—a vacation, really—which made me think of the escape to “fun camp” in general as an escape onto the Internet. On Facebook and Twitter, people can choose to project an “ideal” of themselves, just like they can at camp. For instance, in telling how to perform publicly in a nightly skit, you write: “Act well, using method techniques like drawing from memories of some of the more intense emotional experiences you had in the last hour. Try to be complex and cathartic and redemptive.” Then there are notes of encouragement and compliments that campers publicly share with another along a clothesline—the “warm fuzzies” you call them—which are so much like posting on another’s Facebook wall or Tweeting “at” someone. Do you see the fun camp you created as a reflection of life as it is, how it should be, or how it shouldn’t?
Thanks, Joe, for putting the whole post together, and to HFR who has been awesome and recently published part of the book in a print issue.
What I want to say, just before FUN CAMP becomes a Public Thing, is this:
If you dislike my book, you are welcome to say so publicly.
Even if you know me. Even if you like me. Even if I’m a nice guy you’re pulling for.
We are too careful not to hurt each others’ feelings and so we default to praise. Me too sometimes.
But when I reviewed Confessions from a Dark Wood, I paid Eric Raymond’s book the respect of criticizing it. I took the book seriously enough to point out opportunities I thought the book missed. (Even though I really liked it.)
I’ve tried to do the same with my upcoming review of Tom Whelan’s The President in Her Towers, another book I very much like and respect.
Because here’s the thing: The #1 indicator that a book is a “real book,” from my standpoint, is that people argue about its merit.
If I am investigating a new book and nobody is arguing and the reviews are glowing to the point of embarrassing, my takeaway basically amounts to, “This writer’s friends sure like him.”
Universal acclaim is the great arouser of suspicion. Takedowns beg to be contended with.
What’s a book “everybody loves”? Jesus’ Son, how about. Even Jesus’ Son has 124 one-star ratings and 361 two-star ratings on Goodreads.
When I gave myself two stars on Goodreads last week, it was both an easy joke and an attempt to break the seal on the lower tier. Since then, my publisher Adam Robinson has done me one better. Because we’re marketing GENIUSES.
Since most of us agree that indifference stings more than hate, I’ll take it a step further: If you are just kinda whatever about my book, you are welcome to say so publicly.
Ideally, as with all criticism, the discussion would stay on the book itself instead of the personal (“Gabe Durham is clearly just a pathetic sixteen-foot janitor gorilla with nothing better to do than hock oysters at SUVs”), since that’s the point at which criticism becomes trolling. But what can you do? Some people is dicks.
By the way: Everyone who really does like FUN CAMP and has said so–I believe you! I’m already really pleased with how this book has been connecting with people I know and people I don’t. I just don’t think you yeasayers need to be the only ones speaking up.
All this has been said better before. But since the personal and professional are now so muddled, it seems unfortunately necessary for each writer to define the terms of how he or she will react to criticism. So here’s me saying: I won’t sic the dogs on you.
At my best, I am a big boy.
One week away from FUN CAMP RELEASE DAY and I am debuting stuff from the next project. Now up at The Weeklings: My essay on the UARS satellite, murderer Amy Bishop, the TVA, straw feminists, and why some people don’t like to shake my hand.
Liz, a seller of documentaries with titles such as The Purity Myth: The Virginity Movement’s War Against Women and The Bro Code: How Contemporary Culture Creates Sexist Men, was much better-versed on this topic than I was, but I was learning, and I am told that in the Jean Kilbourne lecture film Killing Us Softly 4, I can be seen laughing appreciatively in several audience reaction shots, likely my greatest contribution to feminism thus far.
Coming soon is another of these in The Weeklings, and one more in The Collagist. Special thanks to Sean Beaudoin for trimming the fat on this thing and making it more of an essay.
I just doublechecked and it looks as if they actually forgot to mention my looks at all.
Durham essentially wrote the book I wanted to write before I could do it … These small stories are all funny and punch-sad. The prose is tightly-coiled. Every last line of every monologue and lecture and warm fuzzy and frantic letter home makes you miss the taste of blackberries, the incomprehensible hodgepodge of what it feels like being a teenager at a pretty weird summer camp.
Niiiice. Thanks so much, O.Z. I’m glad you guys got an early copy.
Attention EAST COAST. Please join Jack and me as we make our way down your coastline.
The Facebook invites are already up:
Sacksteader uses the review mostly to talk about how a Creative Writing teacher might use FUN CAMP in the classroom, and how he’s used parts of the book in the past. (I would love for some teachers to take him up on the idea.) I’m really grateful to him for writing it, and to Tarpaulin for putting it up.