Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Elfish Gene - Insufferable and Insulting

Having come across this some time ago on a spotlight table at Barnes & Nobel, around about the time that the new Red Box D&D came out.. I can say without a doubt now that it's placement there was a member of staffs idea of a Joke. The Joke however, wasn't funny.

I didn't buy it right away, I didn't have the money. But I was looking for some more novels which fall within the genre known as "Lad Lit".. I'm a big Nick Hornby fan.. and Mark Barrowcliffe's name just kept popping up. I'm glad I didn't buy it then.. I had way more fun with the Red Box.. Now that I've read it though, I can say this book is absolutely not worth the money, the effort that went into it, or the time I wasted reading it. I certainly will not be reading any of his other books.

It's nothing but condescension aimed at people who read Fantasy, Play D&D and generally don't choose to fit into societies grand cog layout. The author seems to feel that one should endeavor to "Get better" from your "Sickness" that is being a fan of Fantasy.

I came upon this miserable tome, after having finished off all of Nick Hornby's books I could lay my hands on. Barrowcliffe is frequently compared to Hornby, and their writing styles are similar. But where as Hornby tends to not cast aspersions on those with obsessions.. and in fact the bulk of his characters do. Music in High Fidelity, Skateboarding in SLAM and football in Fevre Pitch, he dosen't lash out at people who happen to have other interests. Barrowcliffe however dosen't hide the fact that he is ashamed of his youth. He feels it's best to ignore and move on, and never to mention it in polite company except to make fun of all those other "nerds" who still play it or attempt to spend a few hours away from their boring and miserable lives filled with mortgages, ill health and car payments. That's unacceptable to Barrowcliffe, he feels that if you do that then you have something wrong with you.

Tommorow, I'm going to return this volume to Barnes & Noble. Then I'm going to use the money to buy some R.A. Salvatore just to spite this guy.

If you want a good book about growing up as a fan of Fantasy, Sci-Fi and gaming, Read Ethan Gilsdorf's "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks" and give your money to some one who dosen't hate you just because of your choice of past times.


Mark said...

Actually, Lagomorph, that's not how I feel at all.
I admit - and have said elsewhere - that the first chapter was a little strong and I'm sorry for that. It was written after the rest of the book and at the suggestion of the publisher who wanted something to explain why a non-D&Der should be interested in it. The tone was too harsh, I admit that.
What I'm railing against is obsession. I was obsessed with D&D, utterly obsessed. I did it to the exclusion of everything else. Who knows - as I also say in the book - I'd probably have successfully made a mess of my life without it. I also say some very positive things about the game, how it brought me into contact with the amazing Billy, how it's a unique form in human history and how, at the end of the day, it wasn't D&D but masculinity to blame for the oddness and bullying that went on.
Every word of the experience I relate is true. So if you don't like it, I'm sorry. It was what happened. I think you can see - as many commentators have pointed out - that it's a basically fond remembrance. Everyone who has been mentioned in the book has loved it and - in the case of Andy Porter - asked for signed copies.
If you take the two chapters that bookend the memoir out then it's almost entirely a fond depiction.
It's also a memoir - that's an individual experience. I was unfortunate in that, when I went back to game - and I have become involved again now - the first group I went to mirrored the dysfunctional one I had been involved in.
After attending a number of cons I do see that the game has in fact moved on. If the book ever goes to a reprint then I'll make amendments accordingly.
There's nothing wrong with spending a few hours away from reality, nothing at all. It's when D&D becomes a separate reality - as it did for me - that the problems begin.
I'm not ashamed of my youth and, if I wanted not to mention this stuff in polite company I chose a pretty odd way to go about it by writing a memoir.
As I say, I play nowadays, have designed a new game and have written two well-received fantasy novels since I did that book, so I'm not moving on at all.
Enjoy the Salvatore!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mark's comments above. In fact, Mark asked to me write a blurb for the book, and after the first chapter, I was ready to say no. But there is much heart in the rest of the Elfish Gene, and I adore it. The humor is self-deprecating, and I identified with much of it.

And, yes, also - enjoy the Salvatore. :-)

Lagomorph Rex said...

I really do appreciate you stopping by and clarifying. I did actually enjoy some bits of your book, and was rather dismayed how much those two chapters seemed to bother me. Normally the only thing that really gets me is excessive violence and gore.. I'll give the parts I didn't like a new look taking into account what you said here.

I'll admit I'm not the quickest when it comes to subtlety and so having it spelled out that it's addiction vs social gathering that you are commenting on does change my view of it considerably.

I suppose it comes from a lifetime of being dumped on for my hobbies.. it makes me a touch quick on the trigger. So maybe I was simply being unduly harsh towards it because I didn't really grasp it as self deprecation so much as blanket deprecation.

I'm going to go ahead and apologize Mark. I know that I was being a bit of an ass myself, but its sort of my style. I jump to conclusions and then frequently have to dial back the froth and spittle. As I say on the blog header, Melodrama and Hyperbole. I try to deliver.