The following is a review of Chapters 1 and 2 of How To Survive Your First Year in College: Shattering Glass by Connor Coyne. A review of the next part (i.e. Chapters 3 and 4) should follow next week.
Shattering Glass is an interesting experiment in new media. It’s a serialized e-book designed for the Kindle. The basic premise for which can be found here. I think that this format is a good one for the particular project because, at least in this first instance, the story breaks just when we the readers need it to do that thing. I’m not saying this negatively; I’m saying that this story is a Ramones concert.
It’s Punk Rock.
The thing last long enough to enter this rich new world, but ends before the one becomes overwhelmed by the information, and the details. The book brings about a strange, dreamlike state and forces you to think about it in terms of its own, somewhat askew, logic. And it ends before your brain oozes out of your ears from living in concurrent realities.
It’s punk rock in the sense that I don’t think Coyne gives a good goddamn how other people write books. I don’t think he gives a good goddamn if this is something that Oprah would recommend to her Book Club. He’s out there telling the story he wants to tell, how he wants to tell it.
Although, knowing Coyne, he isn’t so punk rock that he would say “and if you don’t get it, fuck you.” Coyne is the sort of cat who would be more like, “and if you don’t get it, well, I guess I can understand. It isn’t for everybody. Can I cook you dinner?”
Shattering Glass invites you into its own very specific world, centered on Arkaic University, a pastiche of the University of Chicago if I read these things properly. It’s a bit like our own world: there’s a Prince who sings Purple Rain and the Occupy movement is going on. In other ways, it is not quite our own: the big automotive company is called X and it is based out of an ersatz Flint/Detroit known as Arkaic, Michigan. Still in other ways, it is very different: The university’s Gargoyles through some sort of Deepak Chopra-ish means, brick transmutes to glass, and there is something called a “temporalelectrical turbine”.
We are introduced to a world of colorful characters, instantly recognizable but distant from one note cliches that generally inhabit fictional colleges. There is no jock, nerd, skeptic, bimbo, prep, stoner, or other such stock character that Jason Voorhees likes to murder. Instead, we have young people with quite a bit of depth and who come from a variety of backgrounds, both ethnically and geographically.
But perhaps the most fascinating character is our somewhat less than omniscient narrator, who is distinctly a Connor Coyne creation. He’s part Stan Lee, part carnival barker, part gypsy fortune teller, and I want to say a dash of Billy Corgan. It’s a narrator who can manage to be both deathly serious and give a wink at the same time.
All in all, part one of Shattering Glass does what it should: I want to read part two.
And I shall next week!
-M. L. Kennedy