Monday, May 28, 2012

"I loved American BeheMouth, but I hate the author."

A few people emailed me to say how much they loved the book, but that they hated me personally. “The book was a great and fun read, has some great themes, but I hated you in it.”
My response was “Great. That was what I was going for.” At least, that is, if you mean to say that you hated the protagonist in the book, Jay. Although the book is based on my life story, I fictionalized the characters.Therefore, although Jay has some resemblance to me in the story, I chose his actions based on my goals as a writer, not on actions I would choose myself. For example, some of Jay’s obsessive qualities are several degrees past where I am, although I too have been known to fall out of balance at times.

Let’s take a look at what readers should despise about Jay. On the other hand, let’s also look at his admirable traits.

What you should despise about Jay, the protagonist of "American BeheMouth":

1) He is a cheater and a thief. Nobody likes someone who would cheat or steal to get ahead. Society is full of people like this. Jay should be despised as should others who take this approach to work, sports, finance, industry, or other matters.

2) He is out of balance in life. Jay puts his obsession ahead of all else. He is the antithesis of the model of how to be balanced in life.

3) Jay puts himself and his personal ambitions above his wife and his children. We admire people who put others above themselves.

4) He blows his family’s wealth and goes into obscene debt to finance a vain pursuit, namely fishing, without any tangible benefit. It’s not any different than gambling. It is horrible to see someone spend beyond their means and risk losing everything. Readers should cringe.

5) He in effect “shoots up.” Everyone hates cheaters, but a cheater who also uses chemical means to “win” should be despised. Jay sprays his lake with chemicals to increase the growth of his baitfish; the practice is not much different than sports heroes using performance-enhancing drugs to be more competitive. We all hate drugs and drug addiction.

6) In the end, when the lake’s levy fails, Jay should quit and cut his losses while he still can. Instead, he “doubles up,”just like a poker player. He resembles Ben Bernanke at the printing presses (Jay’s circulating tanks) producing fish like there is no tomorrow, growing the biggest fish. It becomes clear this book is a sad allegory about the state of our country, the economy, and the Fed.

7) Jay is cold and calculating. No one likes someone with this kind of personality. We gravitate toward those who are warm, thoughtful, and kind.

8) Jay is a terrible husband. He does not have any compassion or understanding for his wise and prudent wife, who is the voice of reason and sensibility. Jay does not demonstrate marriage fidelity; he turns to his bass, Elise, as to another woman. The feelings Lauren has about this are the same as if Jay were having an affair. He is in fact having an emotional affair with a fish. Sick, I know.

9) Jay is a bad father. He doesn’t care about his children. He just cares about his lake.

10) I am sure there are other reasons to despise Jay. If you find some, then I believe I am successful with this character. Just for the record, although I have been accused of having an affair with a female bass, the accusations are unsubstantiated.
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Why we might initially admire Jay:

1) Jay is a creator, producer, and achiever, a true American spirit and innovator. We all admire and appreciate those who innovate and achieve great things. It requires someone who is a risk taker and a hardworker. We can think of people like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, among others. Jay is truly a great American in that respect. He just takes a few wrong turns in HOW he goes about innovating. The fisheries formula he develops works and is accurate. It is proven and can be duplicated. He does not need to steal fish or use chemicals to create the record. He just becomes impatient like so many wanting to find a shortcut to riches. Hard work is the only way to success and wealth—not some get-rich-quick scheme—or grow-big-bass-quick scheme.

2) Jay is an overachiever, which can be admirable in one sense, but it can also be despised.

3) Jay is tenacious, a great quality for a prize fighter, but maybe a bad quality for a fisheries scientist.

4) OK, I’ve been thinking a long time now and can’t think of any other great qualities in Jay. So, your point is proven; Jay is to be despised and is not a hero. The heroine in the story is a static character, but she is the heroine nonetheless--Lauren. She represents the voice of American financial independence and freedom.
Read some excerpts at

1 comment:

city said...

nice idea.. thanks for posting.