I Was a Teenage Polish Existentialist: The Writing of Dorota Maslowska
I recently read this book called Snow White and
it’s an existential stream of consciousness novel about a bunch of crackheads in
It makes sense that James Joyce would want to be
reincarnated as a Polish girl. A lot of
people wonder how the other half lives, but aside from the gender swap Poland
seems like a natural fit for an Irishman looking to try something a little bit
different but a lot the same. They’re
both Catholic countries with shitty weather who are dominated by stronger
neighbouring nations. I you ask me
This book centres around a crackhead named “Nails”. The name doesn’t suit him because he’s neither terribly sharp nor hard although he is frequently hammered, but I doubt Ms. Maslowska intended that meaning because I don’t think the expression “hammered” is the same in Polish.
Nails is sort of a cross between the Mark Renton character in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and the Ewan McGregor character in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. Nails is a big time loser who stumbles around in a haze and puts up with all sorts of shit in his deluded quest for love, independence and peace. Maslowska does a pretty good job writing a character of the opposite gender. Usually when somebody attempts this you end up with something like that movie Bandidas, which was obviously written by a guy.
The whole novel is told in a stream of consciousness
that really helps you feel like you’re on crack with Nails. Ideas become manifestations in various forms,
slogans and bits of thoughts float along in the psychological stream of associative
narration. One of the book’s stronger
motifs is the constant reference to a Russian invasion that is either
figurative or actual, and if you flip through any history of
This book is also illustrated, but don’t go thinking that it’s like an instruction manual where it makes no fucking sense until you hit a diagram and realize that all they’ve been talking about is plugging a cord into a jack. Oh no. The drawings are only more abstract than the text.
Then near the end Dorota starts inserting herself into the book as a character and writing about herself in the third person. This is usually a sign that an author is slipping mentally and frequently happens later in their career, but she was a teenager writing her first novel and she’s already having trouble with fantasy and reality. Michal Viewegh did this with his novel Brining Up Girls in Bohemia, but that novel was pretty straightforward haute smut. It was like an apathetic slacker Lolita, so he’s fine. I think he was just restless and horny and that’s why he wrote that.
However Bret Easton Ellis’s latest offering,
I’m sure a lot of the imagery and dialogue has meaning
to people in
Bret Easton Ellis claims that Lunar Park will
be his last novel because now that he’s used himself as a character he’s got
nothing left to explore. The crazy
post-modern self-examination didn’t tucker Maslowska
out. Just reading her first book left me
fucked up, so I assumed her brain just exploded as soon as she finished writing
it. But no, she has a second novel out
now called Puke of the Queen, which I have yet to read because it hasn’t
been translated in Esperanto yet. No
translation has been announced because of disappointing sales of her first
novel outside of
It seems Dorota’s not burned
out, she’s on fire! I look forward to
reading her next novel and if you always wanted to read a book about
existentialist Warsaw crackheads then pick up Snow
White and Russian Red. Or maybe you
are an existentialist Warsaw crackhead and would like
to see how your kind are portrayed in literature, then give it a read and let
me know how accurate it was. And if
while you were reading this and thought that when I mentioned that movie Bandidas you wished I’d just reviewed that instead,
then you can just fuck off!
If Maslowska is also a crackhead, like her characters, she should think about writing chicklit. That bullshit sells well enough to buy her all the crack in the world. It seems more people can relate to wealthy attractive successful independent charming funny big city socialites than crackheads like Nails. I have no idea why. Personally, I hope she writes a kids’ book.
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