This is a repost from some time ago — the most articulate and thoughtful and heartfelt review of this book that I ever received, from a wonderful person I’ve never met and with whom I barely communicated, and that was a long time ago:
I finished reading Ray Harvey’s More and More unto the Perfect Day more than a year ago – for the third time. I had intended to write a review of the book immediately following each reading, but couldn’t gather my thoughts into a neat pile. Instead, I was left with crooked, overlapped, often torn conclusions of how the book had affected me. I have taken notes. I have made an outline in order to follow the storyline. I still find myself unable to write a standard type review, so instead, I’ll submit to my visceral reactions…as a human being; not as a writer, critic, or editor.
First, it pissed me off because it attempted to challenge the beliefs that I have held dear for the entirety of my 38 years. For this, I commend it. A religious man’s faith is tested. The pages where this occurred in real-time are now filled with dry gorges — valleys that were formed by the weight of my tears. Old tears.
Second, the crooked, yet parallel, line it draws with my own life had me looking over my shoulder with the turn of every page. From things as provocative and significant as sourceless anger and spontaneous illness to spooky similarities like Cherokee heritage, acne scars, stretch marks, the names and appearances of family members…I experienced what I would call a one-dimensional, reflective haunting.
Here’s where I stop counting and fall into what flirts with a search for words. This book reached deep within in me. I am a deer that is not yet dead, but being prematurely field-dressed due to her poacher’s anxiety, guilt…something. A hand grabs at my trachea, cuts off the air, and pulls downward, to a place outside my own body. This book has found places within me that have been injured. Some of them have been healed. Others are now bleeding.
I’m not a philosopher, and don’t wish to be. I’m not an intellectual, though I sometimes envy those who are. That’s why it’s so difficult to qualify how and why this book affected me so profoundly. I’m still not sure I understand all the material. Maybe I never will; maybe it’s not intended to be fully understood.
I have found myself wishing I had never read it. Yet, I have read it numerous times. I have attempted to rid my mind of the images it imparts. Yet, I revisit them and curl up into the places they have hollowed out for me. Its lyrical prose is like a song. Its imagery is dark, shapely, and at times, far too real.
Thank you, Mr. Harvey. I don’t know if you intended to do this to me, but it has been done. I doubt I will ever read another book like yours, but if one comes along, the will power to keep my hands off of it will have to be strong. Thank you for demonstrating how good literary fiction distracts the conscious mind while implanting belief systems into the subconscious and unconscious minds. You have reminded me why I love the written word and why I am addicted to its effects – even if those effects are those which I’d rather not endure.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is NOT impressed by predictability, pedestrian prose, shallow characters, and ignorance as an ultimate form of contentedness. If you fit the profile, hold on. There’s no telling how deep this one will take you.
Many dislike this book, and I’ve been surprised at the amount of hate-mail I’ve gotten over it. It is flawed — I know that — not well-paced and perhaps overly philosophical. Yet it took me almost a decade of my life to write and have published, with two near misses — one from Counterpoint Press (Santa Rosa) and the other from Unbridled Books (Saint Louis), both of whose editors were kind enough to write me personal letters expressing admiration but both of whom felt it ultimately “unmarketable.”
I just reread this book for the first time in almost three years, and I believe more strongly than ever that for all its undeniable flaws, it succeeds on the level I most wanted it to, and that its thematic point is important and intelligible. (“If it ceases to be intelligible, it ceases to be art,” said Walter Pater.)
This book took unspeakable amounts of discipline to finish. It very easily could have not gotten finished, and it almost didn’t. It is a long, dense novel, and I labored like never before over every word of every sentence in this book (122,000 words), and rereading it over the past week-and-a-half brought back a heartbreaking multitude of memories — so many specific rooms and places and coffeeshops and cups of coffee and seasons and thoughts about storyline and so many old bookstores and libraries (I lived in these places for much of this book, primarily for Ethiopia and its unbelievable history, much of which goes far deeper than the internet currently provides, and a great deal of which information I wound up cutting, but it remains dear to me), and then the final push to finish the last hundred pages: a Herculean task, if I may say, driving out alone into West Texas and New Mexico, living in motels and doing very little more than writing and going for long runs in the high deserts and eating only occasionally.
Sometimes when writers read their early work, they wince in embarrassment. I half expected that might be the case in rereading this, my first published novel. It was not.
In many ways, it was just the opposite: I almost cannot believe that I wrote it — and I don’t mean that in any way self-aggrandizingly, but only to say that it’s such a strange, philosophical novel that I don’t quite know how it all came together. Dostoevsky is clearly the driving force behind much of it — all four of his masterpieces, but especially Demons and Crime & Punishment.
Thank you again for the inexpressibly beautiful review, Jacinda: a friend and fellow writer whom I’ve never met.
Here’s a less understanding review I once posted.