Monday, April 26, 2010

Vichy Water

Calvin Barry Schwartz

Alex Zari, Egyptian and Elvin Stone meet in 1960 in a vacant lot as Newark high school students and become life long exceptional friends. Exceptional means trust, sharing life and spirituality, pulled from the author's experiences with angelic intervention and clairvoyance. Alex’s haunting visions tell of becoming more than friends.
Elvin attends Rutgers University while Alex studies astronomy and joins a discussion group at Princeton University where he's groomed to slide into a secret organization and government security clearance. Eventually, Alex lands in the Situation Room of the White House with potentially unsettling news for the President.
Life abruptly changes. Clandestine government meetings, murders, and a plane crash follow. Overcome by change and great loss, Elvin searches self in Sedona, Arizona, Guadalcanal, Montana, Key Largo, Vietnam War Memorials, Guadeloupe, and a Chicago African-American cemetery where Emmett Till is buried. Elvin marries twice, changes career to sales, has an affair with the daughter of a European businessman and when morality is confronted, ponders the Virtue of Selfishness. The story twists through the universe, parallel worlds, women's perspectives, racism, tech noir movies, environment and a college bar.

My Take:

I hate to be harsh, because I'm sure someone else out there would enjoy Vichy Water, but I am definitely not one of those people.  I'll be honest, I was turned off in the first sentence.  Here it is: "Two middle aged men, dressed in mountain hiking gear, strolled thru Cathedral Square in Belluno, Italy."  I know "thru" is a little thing, but it drove me crazy.  I didn't think it was an acknowledged word out side of the realm of "drvie-thru", but when I looked it up, it was in fact a word, but an informal, simplified version of "through". As such, I don't think it has any place in the formal narrative of a book.  Now I know that the English language is an ever evolving entity, and that most, if not all, of our words are some watered down version of the word before it  However, this evolution takes time,and when you use an evolving word too soon, it sounds really bad.  Okay, enough of the first sentence.  Overall, I did not enjoy the book, I felt that the transitions between scenes and locations, conversations, etc. were just about non-existent.  It felt like a dream where you drift from scene to scene without much context, but not in a fun whimsical way, it was definitely more frustrating than fun.  The writing felt a bit self indulgent, like he didn't have his audience in mind.  I was also pretty turned off of the main characters from the beginning because they were doing something really gross when we met them, and I just didn't care for them after that.  The book had some nice messages in it, one of the most prominent was fighting against racism.  It was nice, even if you were hit over the head with the message.  Overall, I rate Vichy Water a 5, Don't Bother.  It was not my cup of tea.

Do you agree with my review?  Do you think I'm totally off base?  Either way I'd love to hear from you, be sure to leave a comment and tell me how you feel.

If this book were a movie, it would likely be rated R for strong language and sexuality.








A few words with the author, Calvin Barry Schwartz:

The Book Buff: What inspired you to write your Vichy Water?
 
Calvin Barry Schwartz: I was sitting at the edge of the bed when "something" said to go watch "Casablanca"(for the 44th time). The last scene when Bogart (Rick) shoots the bad German guy and Claude Rains (Louis) picks up a bottle of 'Vichy Water' to celebrate. About to pour it, he realizes that anything 'Vichy' really meant collaboration with the Nazis so he dropped the bottle in a wire trash basket. This whole novel was suddenly in my head in 2 seconds of bottle traveling time. 

TBB: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in Vichy Water?

CBS: Believe it or not, I'd add just one long sentence (in dialogue) towards the end which would serve the purpose of further confounding. I love to confound; a life's mission.

TBB: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
 
CBS: To create powerful visualizations with least amount of word baggage.
 
TBB: Do you have a muse?
 
CBS: Folk music from the sixties (hope, change, tolerance). Listen to it incessantly. I love real spiritual leaders, filled with love, forgiveness, purity, vision, wisdom. Leaders like Gandhi, Dr. King and even Einstein for his sense of goodness and universal haunting intellect.
 
TBB: If you had to choose one book to read the rest of your life, and nothing else, what book would it be and why?
 
CBS: "The Secret" would keep delivering messages about being positive and sending out the same kind of energy into the universe and getting it back, as if you're an antenna.

If you are interested in learning more about Calvin Barry Schwartz, or his book, Vichy Water, check out the following link:

**FTC Disclosure-I received Vichy Water from the author in exchange for an honest review.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions are my own. **


4 comments:

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thank you for posting this. Interviews are always insightful, as this one was.

Bill ;-)
Author of "Back to the Homeplace"
http://eduscapes.com/v2a/back_to_the_homeplace.html

Emidy said...

Aw, too bad you didn't like this one! Writing style is a huge thing for me, so I don't think I'd enjoy this book. I'd be willing to give it a shot, though!

cole said...

I'm shocked that an editor would let "thru" go through.

Kate the Book Buff said...

I believe it was self edited, though I am not sure.

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