Jon Paul Fiorentino
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Buy *Stripmalling* by Jon Paul Fiorentino online

Jon Paul Fiorentino
ECW Press
180 pages
April 2009
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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This is a strange but alluring combination of novel - graphic and literary, memoir and journal. It is an adventurous outing for the author on this, his debut, and more times than not, it works terrifically. When it doesn't work, it also doesn't work miserably. Though those moments are scarce, they do tend to bring down the overall achievement here. Had he just gone straight ahead and written this as a novel, it probably would have resonated much more loudly than this ultimate version.

Still, this is a funny and offbeat book that will take you by surprise.

Jonny lives and works in a strip mall (of course) in suburban Winnipeg. Our character is a slacker, a drug taker, a chaser of women, and an underachiever. In other words, he's just about exactly like the people reading about him. In the story, Jonny wants to be a writer, but he's unable to avoid his own stupidity. It's a wonderful premise and for that reason you've encountered it before - the character who can't get out of his own way. But this tale works better than most of them.

Here, in an early chapter, Jonny writes, "I am getting to a point in my life where I fear absolutely nothing, absolutely no one. It's not that I'm stronger, it's that I'm more comfortable with my weakness." Hilarious. Later, same chapter:

"This novel is about a failed writer named Jonny (sort of an inside the inside - the author, the real Jonny writing about his character, Jonny, writing about a character named Jonny), his mid-life crisis, and his latest failed manuscript, a novel called Stripmalling."
There are also the failed moments. A chapter titled "Workshopped!" contains the content of the book presented in a pseudo-script format. There are notes in handwriting meant to portray a corrected manuscript. This a pretty marginal section, and while the graphic elements are carefully and professionally drawn, they just sit there. A final chapter titled "Final Credits:Lame Teen Comedy Freeze Frame Wrapups" is borderline terrible.

Overall, the attempt to weld graphic and print together doesn't work. But the pages of prose and narrative are gut funny. A second novel is certainly forthcoming and will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of this first one.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2009
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