Absinthe Literary Review, Book Reviews Spring 2002
B O O K   R E V I E W

Spring 2003

Elizabeth Must Die by Jeremy Needle  


Elizabeth Must Die
Jeremy NeeDLE
Six Gallery Press, Ohio
146 pp. No price listed

Elizabeth Must Die is a painful read on many levels, not the least of which being visual. The pages, including the cover, resemble a high school design project where some well-meaning student has used slapdash pictures and as many fonts as possible in order to spritz up an otherwise mundane assignment. I’m sure the press and author think this is a cutting edge piece of experimental fiction and design destined for something beyond the novel graveyard, but they are grossly mistaken. This is simply unprofessional bookmaking at its pinnacle. The inconsistent and irritating use of symbol for text a la IRC (@ for at, w/ for with, &, etc.)  and the inclusion of o’erlengthy internet chat banalities reinforces the feeling that this is fluff rushed to market by green literary kids who might know their way around hack-crack usegroups and TCP protocols but wouldn’t know literature if it flew in the window and shattered their monitor. Most of the tech speak is jargon that will be utterly lost on non-geeks—most of the reading public—and even the title is rendered in geekspell:  Elizabeth |\/|u5t |)13. Let’s pause, give the world a fucking break, and grow up already. There is nothing so irritating as Yahooligan convention pitched as literature.

The writing shows the same painful excesses of youth as the design. Yes, the erections of the young are fascinating in their hard-in-a-minute, come-in-a-minute way, but they often lack any salience other than fuck-all. And NeeDLE certainly fucks all. The author seldom gives us any kind of real or surreal environment, story development or character depiction to grapple with, preferring to delve into the protagonist’s infantile egocentric mind and id—a protagonist whose name, I might add, I’m not sure I ever caught. The fact that I didn’t care enough to search for it should give you a fair indication of the amount of sustaining interest EMD engenders in its readers. The weak multi-lateral plot fails to drive the work as NeeDLE often leaves us adrift, refusing to quantify characters at crucial points. (Yes, I know—he meant to do that. Hurrah. It didn’t work.) The writing is pure literary masturbation, ignoring craft and reader at every turn, and one can almost see the writer staring in his self-congratulatory mirror as he pecks away at his keyboard amidst the ringing chords of dozens of instant messages. Any writer who uses both paphian (sic) and asomatous multiple times in a single novel should seriously consider entering Bulwer-Lytton—and soon.

And any editor who allows this behavior should be put up on charges. The book is criminally edited. Even a young counterculture press should know how to spell Doc Martens, for God’s sake (check the Internet, maybe?). Numerous misspellings, typos, grammatical gaffs, inconsistent punctuation and capitalization, amateurish design: all increasingly par for the course, I’m afraid, for this generation of easily published writers who seem bent on doing themselves the career-eviscerating disservice of not weathering five or ten years of growth and rejection. (Remember, young writers: “In the fiery heart of the crucible, steel is made.”)

That’s the real tragedy here. NeeDLE actually seems to have a burgeoning gift for imagery and internal monologue. His language is stirring at times but a tendency towards the typical, alt-snobby, punk-rockier-than-thou attitude destroys this work, making it come off as a clichéd juvenile rant. By rushing this lackluster book to market, NeeDLE has forever foregone any chance at the profound debut he may be capable of writing. However, if he can get rid of his egocentrism and insufferable counterculture vanity, he may yet be a man with a future in the literary world.