Daniel has wanted to be a writer ever since he was in elementary school.He has published stories and articles in such magazines as Slipstream, Black Petals, Spindrift, Zygote in my Coffee, and Leading Edge Science Fiction. He has written four books: The Sage and the Scarecrow (a novel), the Lexical Funk (a short story collection), Reejecttion (short story/ essay collection), and The Ghosts of Nagasaki (a novel).
Full disclosure: There is no way I can give this book a fair review. Harry and I have written a book together called “ReejecttIIon -- A Number 2.”
As advertised in the title of the book, you will meet hustlers, you will experience hassles, and hash will make up a great part of your journey. Whether true purification is reached in the course of this journey is another question. I tend to think of true purification as something rather elusive. For Harry, though, the course to purification should have exotic locales, check marks next to items on one’s F***it list, and experiences with the devil in its/his/her many shapes and forms. Is this true purification? From experience, I can tell you that travels and writing are only part of the process of purification...
The C.S. Lewis quote at the beginning of the book makes the personal challenge a little more clear: Harry must avoid the twin pitfalls of becoming a base materialist (with no belief in the magic of the world) or a unskeptical magician (who becomes too enamored with the devil). This is what Harry thinks his challenge is. Maybe he’s right. But there are others. He still has to charm the reviewers. He still has to learn the being an indy writer and being an Egyptian merchant are similar occupations. (“You buy this book, yes? It will make you attractive to the ladies!”)
Harry / you must also avoid the pitfall of becoming absorbed in oneself and becoming one with the pain of heartbreak. For a travel book about Egypt, there are large stretches of time where the book is about Harry and his overwhelming pain. Egypt is the the thing that pulls Harry out of himself, but also forces Harry back into himself. In a world of hustlers and hassles, why expose oneself to the world -- where hassles and hustles are smaller versions of the intense pain of heartbreak?
The minor heartbreaks of hustlers and hassles make up a great deal of the events of the book. However, so do moments of joy and respite. The book is about one person’s life in a certain place and time, and these events are simply and beautifully told.
There are, however, bigger villains in the book. These villains are some of the most captivating elements of the book.
One of these villains is the “Great Father.” A hustler whose clutches Harry happens to fall into early in the book when he decides to have coffee with a local hustler named Abdullah. Abdullah takes Harry from one place to another until finally Abdullah delivers him into the perfume shop of the “Great Father” -- a place that for Harry embodies evil.
Something is wrong. Very wrong. The mood has suddenly become dark. Much too dark for a book review. The reviewer suddenly isn’t his co-writer friend that he thought he knew so well but instead a great bear of a man, with a designer T-shirt, trendy jeans and Reebok trainers. Casual. Cool. But also a hustler with dark eyes that try so swallow him up and turn himself inward. Into his own loathing and fear.
Somehow, Harry finds himself back in the perfume shop of the Great Father.
“Harry,” the Great Father says. “We meet again. Last time, you left so quickly. It is destiny that you have found me here in this book review. You have experienced a great tragedy in your life, yes?”
Harry looks at the Great Father skeptically, looks him straight in his devil-black eyes. Everyone has had a personal tragedy. He is just fishing. Why is he here again? How did he get into this book review?
“You are lost in a great darkness.”
“No, mate. Not again. I won’t do this. It was shitty enough the first time.”
“You have written a book. This book has many problems. One, it stands in the shadow of other great travel books about Egypt. You just go around smoking weed. Your book is lazy. Like a lazy pot smoking book. Also, you don’t make sexy time in the book, even though your readers want to hear about sexual conquests. Blah, blah heart-ache, blah blah where is my girl? Then you go and smoke weed like lazy man. This is okay, I have a perfume that will make your book better….also you will take a tour with me in the desert. This tour will help cleanse your soul. And there is a man that lives in a small town I know who can ghost-write a better book. Very cheap. You will be Harry, the great adventurer and lady’s man of Egypt. The perfumes and the trip. Only LE 16,000.”
“Wait, I came here for a book review.”
“Yes, I know. Book review. No problem. First you buy the perfumes to cleanse your book of slow pacing. Then we find the great ghost-writer of the desert. He helps make a real protagonist who can woo ladies and ride a motorbike everywhere. Doesn’t need to get in argument with 20 taxi drivers in the course of 250-pages. Makes the book less repetitive. No need to name the book ‘How to Look Foolish and Stupid while arguing with Egyptian Taxi Driver.’”
“You thought the book was repetitive?”
“Yes, like lazy pot-smoking book.”
Harry is starting to lose his grip. Stay focused, Harry, get what you want. “La, la, la, I came here for just book review.”
“No, la, la, la, Harry. Your are a true Egyptian now. We will sit together and meditate. We will cleanse the spirit and find the truth about your book. Repeat after me, ‘The throat chakra’s connected to the third-eye. The third-eye chakra’s connected to the hip bone. The hip bone’s connected to the weak character development. The weak character development is connected to the pot addiction…’”
“Okay, wait, now, you’re just putting me on.”
The great father sprays Harry with perfume. Some of it gets into Harry’s eyes. For a moment, he is blinded. He struggles to get his eyes into focus. For a moment, the great father becomes Daniel Clausen laughing a hideously in slow motion with devil horns on his head. Then his eyes refocus and he sees the Great Father again.
“Harry, you must repeat. This incantation must be repeated exactly as I say it.”
Harry somehow finds himself repeating the incantation. “The throat chakra’s connected to the third-eye. The third-eye chakra’s connected to the hip bone. The hip bone’s connected to the weak character development. The weak character development’s connected to the pot addiction…” The entire time he’s thinking: don’t give him more than LE200, don’t give him more than LE200.
But the entire time that Harry’s chanting he sees his money disappearing from his pocket. His vision blurs and he sees Daniel Clausen laughing a villainous exaggerated laugh in slow motion, counting the Egyptian money. Then the Great Father comes back, “Keep chanting...must buy all 16 perfumes...trip to the desert...the third eye chakra’s connected to the hip bone….”
Harry wakes up in his room in London. It’s another rainy day in London. It must have been a dream. There was no review with the Great Father attempting to get his revenge. In the end only LE200 was paid for one bottle of perfume and a meditation. He had not been had.
He walks in his living room and finds perfume bottles everywhere. The Great Father is also sleeping on his couch. On his book shelf he sees his book. Although, this is not the sensitive tale of self-discover he had written. He picks it up.
“The Great Harry of Egypt” it reads. He is riding a motorcycle up a pyramid with a sword in his hand. Two ladies are hanging on to Harry from the back of his motorcycle.
The Great Father doesn’t open his eyes, but he says, “I tried to give book away with bottles of perfume, but no one wanted it. But it’s okay, Harry. Today you will drive taxi and bring me more customers. We will sell your book and my perfumes, eh, Harry. Or should I call you Abdullah?”
From a laptop somewhere far away, Daniel Clausen laughs a slow-motion villainous laugh.
Harry and I sit down for a coffee in London. It has been about three months since he has managed to get the Great Father out of his apartment and found a suitable method for disposing of the new versions of his novel.
“Well, I have to admit,” Harry says. “I felt powerful riding the motorcycle up the pyramid. And working for the Great Father has given me a new respect for how to hustle in this crazy world.”
“See,” I say. “This review wasn’t all bad.”
“Yeah, but what did you really think of the book?”
“I already told the reader earlier. The book was very good. I finished it in four days on top of my busy work schedule and felt the better for it. I take the piss out of all the books I like.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
“Take care, Harry. I’m off on my next book reviewing adventure.”
And with those words, I proceed on to the adventure of reviewing Neuromancer!