July 12, 2013

The Eccentricity of Hope: a review of Graham Parke's "No Hope for Gomez!"

No Hope for Gomez!
Outskirts Press (2010)
188 pages
ISBN13: 9781432752484

Would you ever sign up to be a guinea pig for a pharmaceutical company? I sure as heck wouldn't. I'm skeptical enough of the drugs that have already been clinically approved. Granted, it is easy money--provided your appendages don't start falling off or your skin doesn't turn to sandpaper. For Gomez Porter, money is a big motivating factor when he signs on to sign on as a test subject with a drug company. The antique shop he inherited from his parents isn't exactly a booming business, and Gomez's salesmanship pales even against his socially awkward and slightly neurotic assistant, Hicks.

In fact, Gomez's quiet little life already seems to be filled with enough crazy, but maybe that's the drugs talking, since the novel is told by Gomez himself through his blog entries. It's difficult to say for sure how real things are that Gomez is writing about. Is that guy browsing the shelves of his store really wearing a sombrero? Is the guy even there or just a drug-fueled hallucination? The take-it-as-it-comes attitude exhibited by Gomez makes it hard to say for sure.

Then there are the mysteries that crop up while Gomez is recording his most banal thoughts and experiences. A fellow test subject is dead, and Gomez can't help wondering if it has something to do with the drug he was taking, or maybe something even more nefarious. Plus, Gomez develops a crush on the doctor checking up on him regularly through the trial, unsure if he's feeling genuine emotions towards her or if it's all due to the unknown drug he's taking. Either way, when she confides to him that someone is stalking her, he's all too eager to stalk her stalker.

The "is it all in his mind" schtick is played out really well, but on the other side of that coin is a lot of mundanity catalogued in Gomez's journal entries. Parke mercifully peppers it with plenty of wry humor and waggish remarks to offset what might otherwise be utter mundanity. Unfortunately, it takes quite a while for the pacing to match the puns, making the first half of the book more of a slog to get through than I was expecting. And as the story progresses, the blog entry style seems to conflict with how the story is being told, kind of constricting how things play out. There were points where I wonder if Parke might have been better off just writing the novel from a more conventional first-person viewpoint. That said, when the plot gets into gear and Gomez's tribulations mount, everything blends together, or I just got used to the odd universe Parke constructed through Gomez's point-of-view. It's definitely quirky, a bit of High Fidelity if written while on acid. If that sounds like your cup of tea, give it go, if not you might spend more time scratching your head than turning the page.

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