Envy. I’m afraid to be honest about this fact, but that is what I felt when I read, “Not to Mention a Nice Life” by Sean Murphy. To begin with, Murphy’s and my style are wholly opposites, as if his were a roaring fire and mine was a sniveling stream. (Perhaps when it comes to sniveling streams I am what Murphy seems to me, but I doubt even that). What he brings to the pages is an unbound artistry that we normally only get to see with poets. It is, in fact, in both the Baldwinian sense – the word poet being used for artist of every sort — and in a very typical sense, appropriate to call Murphy a poet. I wouldn’t think twice about saying so. This artistry came to me in a way that only a random selection via Kindle Unlimited or a trip to the library could provide, and it came to me unashamed of itself. The work stood as a confident, mature, and as cultivated as a hedge in a picturesquely quaint home, and as it looked upon me and I unto it, I could only realize my own nakedness and cover up. This is to say that if one were display my work alongside Murphy’s mine would look like the prized paintings that children make parents put on the fridge. And unlike before (in my review of How to Be a Writer, where I was comforted in seeing that I have somewhere to grow in my writing endeavor, I felt as Pluto might’ve felt if it could ever be cognizant of the magnitude of the sun.
There are things I can comment on, however much like cowardly potshots they might seem. The lure of Murphy’s novel is in language and format, what didn’t win me to its side was the content of the novel. This isn’t to say it was bad nor was it a literary Prometheus providing the first prose to humans. It meandered and maundered in way that made it dream-like and listless, and it never struck at any core. Perhaps in my lack of artistry, I also miss a mark called point, but it seems more that it was to depict an aloofness that this certain character possessed and by being such, never really finds substance. But is it really a writer’s job to provide substance of which to analyze? Is it analysis and commentary or artistry and composition that is the job of the writer? Maybe it’s both and toeing the line is the best bet a boar of a writer like me could accomplish.
As of now, I am supremely humbled by “Not to Mention a Nice Life” and the palpable artistry that Sean Murphy carries around so deeply that it seeps into his words. I am, therefore, unsure of what else to say about this book, I come more as a witness to an artistry so far beyond my reach, than as a reviewer.