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Eat When You Feel Sad Paperback – February 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
German's debut novel follows protagonist Robert, an emaciated vegan, through the always relevant trials and tribulations of growing up. German's writing is comprised entirely of short, staccato sentences: "Robert is riding his bike. He's wearing a sweater. There is a red light. Robert stops riding his bike." Through this stylized writing, readers follow Robert from a suburban childhood of listening to records, smoking pot and stealing from a bookstore to his first sexual experience with girlfriend Alison ("Robert and Alison have sex. They finish having sex."), and finally a move to a nameless city and the unavoidable struggle to find himself. Robert tries kissing guys, making carrot juice, and plenty of drinking and getting stoned, but doesn't ever find what he's searching for. The complications of life seem to fly by him with little consequence. The book has many charms, even though German's minimalist style of writing-clearly mimicking his main character's view of life-can be a bit daunting. The deadpan delivery does add humor to Robert's daily routine, and the unromanticized life of a twenty-something hipster is a refreshing change of pace from the usual way that such creatures are portrayed.
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"Moving, funny, emotional, and—in a revolutionary way—both highly-readable and avant-garde, Eat When You Feel Sad excites me very much in terms of literature and also life itself.”
“Zachary German’s nimble, catwalking, archeological, surface dwelling, emotionally unpaved prose is a thing of total wonder and my favorite drug, language-based or otherwise. Eat When You Feel Sad is so bright and pleasurable and full of excellence, it’s positively serene.”
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"It's night. Robert and Tom walk past a beer store. Robert looks at it. He looks at Tom. Robert and Tom talk. They walk past a beer store. Robert doesn't look at it. Robert and Tom are in front of Robert's building. They look at the sky. They talk. They walk inside. They walk up stairs. They walk into Robert's apartment. Robert and Tom sit on the couch."
There are in fact multiple repetitions of these actions - walking, talking, being in front of Robert's building, up stairs, into his apartment, sit on couch, sit on bed, lie on bed, etc. ad nauseam. Sounds horrible, you say? Well, yes. And no. Because the story of Robert, from high school into young adulthood, searching (I think) for some meaning in his life, becomes oddly compelling. He has a job, although we never learn what it is. Instead we are privy to his empty, sad social life, and his interactions with several equally unfocused friends who seem to have no idea what to do with themselves. Robert wonders if he's gay, tries kissing a male friend, decides he's not. Has a few meaningless relationships with girls. Dialogue between Robert and his friends sounds a lot like the old Beavis and Butthead cartoons. He obsessively checks his email, gets online, checks his cell phone, texts, checks Facebook, downloads and listens to music, watches TV and movies - and the tunes, TV shows, films, books (and authors) are all carefully named, and even indexed in the back of the book. Robert, who is a vegan, buys food, fixes it, eats it, feels sad. He gets drunk. He vomits. He masturbates and feels sad. He wonders if he will ever have a meaningful relationship and feels sad.
Because Robert and his friends are constantly connected online or by cell phone, they don't seem to know how to have a proper face-to-face conversation without feeling - and sounding - awkward, often resorting to responses like: "No yeah I know. Yeah. I don't know."
I picked this book up on sale because it looked kinda strange, with its mustard stains on the cover; and it is published by Melville House, which generally picks its stuff very carefully. Well, I'm still kind of scratching my head over this book, which ends - NOT - "in media res." Avant garde? Cutting edge? Well, no yeah I know; I don't know. Bottom line: This is very strange stuff. I'm kinda glad I read it, but not really. I don't know.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER
Find more Zachary German in Hot. Off the Press. Zachary German profile and interview
Reviewed by IR Staff
**IndieReader gives this book 3.5 stars**
A refreshing and invigorating novel that I am sure to enjoy many more times.