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Review of I Wish I Was Like You by S.P. Miskowski

Even 23 years later, I remember 1994 and Kurt Cobain's death. I experienced that moment as a kind of inside out personal crisis. I felt ashamed by his death. As though his exit in someway indicted my own teenage miseries. "I wish I was like you," goes the verse in 'All Apologies,' "Easily amused." I felt as though a check I hadn't remembered writing had just been cashed. 

"Sky Strands" by Morgan Crooks (2012)
SP Miskowski's book, named after the first half of that line, is in the words of another reviewer, a novel that shouldn't work. The narrator is unlikeable, unreliable, and dead. The plot is almost entirely told as a flashback and long sections of the novel concern the inner processes of the writer. The daily grind to summon up enough self-esteem to carry a sentence to its logical conclusion is a real struggle, people, but it ain't exactly riveting.

But the thing is, this novel works. It is one of the best things I've read all year and a real achievement in weird fiction.

At one point the main character Greta's writing mentor/lover/sworn enemy Lee Todd tells her that writing doesn't MEAN anything. That the worst lie a writer can succumb to is that their words will have any significance in the end. And yet, this novel means something to this reviewer. It conjured a moment and a place, casting a pitiless eye upon something sordid and horrifying, to paint a life worth remembering. Of all the similarities between life and death, the one most poignant is simply the futility of resentment. Her flaw is the simple assumption that she deserves some measure of happiness and acknowledgement of her efforts. Alive, the lack of respect others give her slowly curdles into a life built and sustained by indignation and dead, she nurses an amorphous and omnidirectional thirst for vengeance.

The thing that stuck with me most vividly is this novel's honesty. Yes, Greta is a liar and a thief but she's also rendered with unflinching accuracy. I know this person. I've met her before and I've never really appreciated how much I am like her. Greta's tragic efforts to claw her way out of entropy and rejection feels painfully specific and damn-near universal.

The horror of this book is not what Greta does but the suspicion we might not act all that differently given the chance.
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