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Location: Baltimore-DC Area

Author who writes for a living and lives for writing. // WOMB: a novel in utero (Merge Publishing 2017) // TRACKS: A Novel in Stories (Atticus Books 2011) // FLIGHTLESS GOOSE, a storybook for children (Writers Lair Books 2008) // www.EricDGoodman.com

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Three Wombs with Views

It’s easy to love the good reviews when they come. It’s not as simple to dismiss the uninspired ones. Being in good company makes it easier. Litro panned Ian McEwan’s Nutshell and my Womb in the same sentence.

Litro, the UK’s largest print and online literary magazine, has a print distribution of 130,000 in addition to their larger online presence. So I’m thinking a lackluster review is better than no review at all, which is what books published by smaller presses often get from large magazines like Litro.

I was surprised to discover this review of Womb a full trimester before the novel's publication.

“Womb: A Novel in Utero by Eric D. Goodman is to be published early next year by Merge Publishing. Like McEwan, Goodman rises to the challenge posed by the foetus’ limited perspective, relating a story of betrayal and domestic turmoil through the filter of the uterine wall. The narrator of Womb is in possession of knowledge beyond his experience, this time not the work of podcasts but of a ‘connection to the greater consciousness’ which ‘allows me to peruse the works of great philosophers and thinkers, to study sociological and psychological experiments, to witness the past and see such theories put into practice in the field’.”

The reviewer goes on to describe Ian McEwan and me as either lazy or inexperienced, using another author’s words to do so.

“‘One of the commonest signs of a lazy or inexperienced writer of fiction is inconsistency in handling point of view,’ David Lodge informs us, and it is this inconsistency ... that undoes the carefully-constructed conceit around which both novels hinge.”

Of course, one can’t please all readers, and I do expect some non-stellar reviews. However, I do feel the reviewer took some of my text out of context, as pointed out by another reader in the comments. Never does Womb imply that anyone but the pregnant mother should make a decision about her child. The “let him decide” line quoted in the review was the narrator telling his mother to let her husband decide whether he was ready for fatherhood, not whether she should have the baby.

The reviewer had as much good to say about Womb and Nutshell as she did bad. She also reviewed a third novel in utero, What Becomes Us by Micha Perks.

“There is a common thread to these novels. Perks examines the mother’s journey from past to present: determined to erase her own history, she embarks on a reinvention of self to match the invention of self happening inside her. Goodman laments the loss of unlimited knowledge. After the baby’s birth, his language fragments into staccato-sentences. And McEwan’s newborn mourns the ‘private ease of Mother’s womb’, as Thomas Gunn wrote so memorably in ‘Baby’s Song’. Gunn’s baby wishes to be ‘put… back/ Where it is warm and wet and black’. Now, ‘raging, small, and red’, he knows that while things may be forgotten, ‘I won’t forget that I regret’. This regret, a startling sentiment in narrators who haven’t yet lived, permeates all three novels.”

Read the full essay about these three wombs with a view in Litro.



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