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The Festival of Earthly Delights Hardcover – June 26, 2012
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"...a perfect summer read, armchair travel in a higher key." --Los Angeles Times
"There's... no comparison to reading a novel that it's clear a writer had a ton of fun writing. For a light-hearted book, there's a lot of heart in The Festival of Earthly Delights." --The Rumpus
"Comic novels can be whimsical, or clever, or delightful, or witty, or canny, or powerful. Rarely are they all of those things. Matt Dojny's large-hearted, bright-minded novel has drawings and letters and love and loss, and now you do, too." --Ben Greenman, author of What He's Poised to Do and Superbad
"Matt Dojny's novel is a true delight. I can't think of any writer since Kingsley Amis who's been able to write high-minded comedy that packs such a punch. I've never enjoyed a comic novel more." --John Wray, author of Lowboy
"The Festival of Earthly Delights is a thoroughly enjoyable and eminently funny book that can keep a whimsical, humorous tone intact whilst addressing very valid, topical issues. The balancing act is as impressive as you're likely to find in any modern comedy or debut novel..." --Tottenville Review
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The Festival of Earthly Delights offers up a protagonist and narrator, Boyd Darrow, a twenty-something American abroad, whose sweetness, haplessness and usual imperturbability--but note his tendency to faint when the water gets too choppy--make him hard not to care about. All the while I was smiling or laughing out loud at one predicament or other, I was sighing with an affection that grew with every chapter.
Boyd's misadventures unfold in the tiny southeast Asian nation of Puchai, where a wink, like the legendary number of Eskimo words for snow (in truth, about the same number as in English), can have 379 possible meanings, from "I played a joke on you!" or "I want to kiss your lips" to "You're fired"; "I know I owe you a lot of money, but I don't have it at the moment" to "I feel that, no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do, I am doomed to always stay exactly the same, trapped in a hell of my own devising"; "I want to capture an image in my brain of the way that you look at this very moment due to the fact that you are so incredibly beautiful to me" to a relatively simple "Hello and goodbye." While southeast Asia lays down the broader strokes for the world Dojny draws us into, his decision to invent Puchai allows him to amp up the odd and the culture clash, a la his 379-kinds-of-wink conceit. As Boyd and his girl friend Ulla try to get the lay of the land while earning money teaching English and drama respectively, their main intention in escaping to Puchai is to repair their damaged relationship. Needless to say, things don't work out quite how they intended, for which readers can be very thankful. Boyd's story is both hilarious and poignant.
As if the text were not delighful enough, Dojny gives us occassional illustrations throughout, the way someone with a penchant for doodling might in letters to a friend. Besides being funny in themselves, and fit, there is usually amusement to be had in their very placement. They say comedy is in the timing, and Dojny's sense of comedic timing is evident here as it is throughout The Festival of Earthly Delights.
*Unless they were written by Kurt Vonnegut.
Dojny created a vivid world with some strange characters. I was somewhat angry at the protagonist for not standing up for himself in front of his girlfriend [or was this written as a revenge novel!?] and his feelings on the relationship were not fully expressed for a first-person persepective. However, this created tension and I kept reading to find out if he would explode.
Some of the ridiculous local customs were strange enough to seem real. Since I was on the road in Vietnam, I could see some similarities and had fun trying to guess which country he visited [or perhaps an amalgamation of places].
This is a fun book and worth the download!