Ok, so I have received quite a few reviews for Stripmalling now. The reviews have been an interesting mix. I am lucky to have received very positive assessments from (in my opinion) the most important venues -- The Quill and Quire, and the Globe and Mail. Other rags and mags have been less positive. And one review is so ridiculously negative that it fails to cite the book at all and actually makes claims about my life instead! (Mmmm! Now that's good literary journalism!)
Anyways, as per usual, my two hometowns are home to the harshest criticism. And, overall, I am very pleased with the response to the book.
Here's the good, the bad and the ugly:
Stripmalling is the first novel by Jon Paul Fiorentino, and a very funny one it is.... Amid the hilarious scenes that make up Stripmalling — gas-station hot-boxing, desperate ploys for sex, moderate success in the writing world — Fiorentino produces peaks of warmth and true sadness.
— Globe and Mail
It's a Canadian triumph. It's not pretty, but it's a great romp. A funny, funny romp.
— Lemon Hound
Stripmalling is an entertaining, occasionally disorienting trip through the wires of Jonny, a presumably semi-fictional character working in and around a strip mall in suburban Winnipeg.... Outrageous, intriguing and quietly powerful, Stripmalling offers readers the curious and ultimately rewarding experience of stepping outside their own stories.
— Scene Magazine
Stripmalling is an author’s memoir freed from the tyranny of facts. Jonny shares his personal issues with an off-the-wall candour.... From the top of Stripmalling, you see a keen mind at work under the quirky surface.
There’s a welcome what-the-hell bent to the fictionalized part-memoir, part-graphic novel collage that is Jon Paul Fiorentino’s Stripmalling.
— Toronto Star (Arrivals)
...poignant, politically savvy and laugh-out-loud-funny...
— Montreal Mirror
Stripmalling is worth reading for its wry, sardonic humour and delightfully self- deprecating tone . . . Thoroughly enjoyable.
— Montreal Review of Books
[Stripmalling has] a poignant tension between narrative and fragmentation, hopefulness and cynicism. . . . [Fiorentino has] become one of Montreal's — and Canada's — most prolific and accomplished young writers.
A collage-like experience, Stripmalling is a hybrid book forged out of multiple angles and perspectives. It is also a funny and clever experiment in tale-telling.
— Quill and Quire
Stripmalling is an amusing, breezy read ... well-paced fun
— Complete Review
He certainly does bits well: the comic strips "Helen Keller’s Voice Mail" and "Dubious Toasts" are tastelessly hilarious, aided considerably by Munday’s understated cartooning. Nor is Fiorentino without insight. What he needs to do next time is supply a final act.
— Winnipeg Free Press
Sometimes the line between hipster irony and boringly bad is too narrow to discern.... If everybody's alienated and nobody cares, what's the point of reading any further? There's a reason why The Simpsons isn't a novel.*
— Toronto Star (Column)
It should never be enough to simply regurgitate one's lack of a significant life... Sadly, instead of building on his strengths, Fiorentino wallows in his weaknesses – lack of plot, banal observations, cheap characterization, hipster posing.
— Montreal Gazette
An aside: It's interesting to note that in the most scathing indictments of Stripmalling, the word "hipster" is invoked. I think these days, "hipster" is scribe code for "young and/or threatening." See Carl Wilson's excellent response to Russell Smith for a more nuanced and complex discussion of this.
Another aside: *(Hey, Toronto Star dude: Actually, writers of The Simpsons care very much about cultural literacy and intellectual/literary practice. Stop being reductive and try reading John Swartzwelder's wonderful novels. He wrote 59 episodes of The Simpsons and his books are brilliant.)
So there you have it. The responses to my book so far. It obviously hits a nerve with readers. I am thankful for the good and bad reviews. The ugly one is just ugly. Is Stripmalling hipster posing and boringly bad? Or is it funny, clever and poignant? Go buy it and let me know what you think.
Now let's all sit back, relax, and listen to the clearly not hipster band The Smoking Popes!