Saturday, August 15, 2020

Nick Charming's Charmless Guide

Nick Charming's Guide to Breaking Hearts in Twelve Easy Steps. My rating 5 out of 5 stars. I've waited anxiously for about a year to see what talented author, Arly Carmack, would treat her fans to next. I expected a sequel to Nineteen, or another book in a similar genre or, at the least, one portraying a world that was cobbled together from similar values. This "shortie" is, therefore, an unexpected treat. 

Nick's "Guide" is a diary of events from this own life, cleverly transformed into a guide for other miscreants who wish to emulate his calculated, calibrated, misogynistic and misanthropic M.O. Just in case you wanted to know. Just in case you wanted to try his "shtick" out. It's like reading a recipe book for How Not to Play Nice. But it's not that simple, because the reader--from his vantage point behind the battle lines--can see what the writer of the primer can not. There are moments where one wonders who is playing who. And, at the very least, there are one (possibly two) characters who are playing Mr. Charming for all they can get out of him: one of them is his own mother. And, too, it becomes obvious that a man is a total weakling when the only woman he tries to really please is Mommy. At this point I could launch into a dissertation on how the time for Sociopath Literature is fully upon us. Why not? This is the age of Trump. You can watch the antics play out in the news every day. 

As sociopaths go, Mr. Charming, unlike our toxic president, is remarkably self-aware, and that provides so much of the entertainment in his meticulous twelve step program. It's as funny as it is shocking. The epilogue provides a parting zinger that will leave a bittersweet taste on your tongue. 

I tip my hat to the author. Writing a good "shortie" is not easy. Every word--and in this case, every directive or instruction--has to work. The author created a perfect relationship bomb on these pages, and it tick-tick-ticks its way, word by word, to a great conclusion.