The Shoeshiner’s Metropolis (a self-published novel by a mysterious author known only as Montetré) is a hefty tome. Weighing in at over 600 pages, this novel is ostensibly about “a man who unwittingly has his mind and body taken over to become the President of The United States in a not so distant future“.
The first and most prominent thing that jumped out at me was the written style. It is… unusual. In part it resembles a stream-of-conciousness and in part a poorly-edited translation. Frequently I would stumble across sentences and indeed whole paragraphs the meaning of which completely eluded me. Here’s an example of one from early on in the text:
“And I drink, but stop in stretch of it. I wince in pain and fall in between the ongoing crowd. Falling to my knee, liquor spills out and I’m noticing it, all.”
Rather than coming across as an energetic and wild stream-of-conciousness (which, I believe, may have been the intention) it registers more as garbled and incoherent. As the book goes on this style does not let up. It is just as impenetrable and difficult to understand all the way through to page 669.
The one excpetion to this is the dialogue, which Montetré does exceptionally well. Speech is captured with a clarity and an authenticity that is all the more surprising for being surrounded by nonsense. The contrast is so stark that it almost feels as though the dialogue was put to paper by a different author.
The story itself–as might be expected for such a lengthy book–is long and torturously slow. Individual scenes drag and meander. Page after page passes without anything interesting or relevant occuring. However exciting the concept seemed to begin with it is quickly lost in a welter of words.
But maybe I’m missing the point. If The Shoeshiner’s Metropolis reminded me of anything it was of Joyce’s masterpiece of abstraction Finnegan’s Wake (I should mention that the latter was also a book I did not greatly enjoy). The key difference was that in The Shoeshiner’s Metropolis the garbling of the text felt completely unintentional, clumsy rather than deliberately difficult.
Having glanced at the book’s shop page and seen that it retails for £25 per copy it occurs that this may be more of a personal project than a book that is intended to find a wide or appreciative audience. After all, it sounds excellent in theory: a six-hundred page post-apocalypse, science fiction epic filled with dystopian psychedelia and rampant craziness. In practice though, it doesn’t quite hold up. Except to satisfy your curiousity, I honestly cannot recommend it.
The Shoeshiner’s Metropolis is self-published and is availble from Lulu.com.
Christopher Frost is a writer from the North of England.