THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR YOU, BY DANIEL A. HOYT
“Books [are] made for shit like that. They are the friends you can absolutely rip apart. Snap their spines and see if they care,” says Neptune, the narrator of Daniel A. Hoyt’s This Book Is Not For You. Neptune is good at ripping apart his own narrative, sometimes mid-telling, forcing the reader to patch together the violent trajectory of his life, from childhood abandonment to “safety skinheads,” from homelessness to accusations of murder. Hoyt begins every chapter as “Chapter One,” just one of the many ways he forces readers into the immediacy of the moment, the imperfection of each beginning, middle, and end. When Neptune’s mentor and surrogate mother is murdered, he runs from the law—fighting, drinking, and fucking his way through beginning after beginning. And despite his intelligent and biting sense of humor, we’re reminded time and again that he’s only nineteen—his life has been nothing but false starts cut short by brutality and poverty.
But the noir-like grime of Hoyt’s novel is no match for the love that Neptune has for the relationship between author and reader. His tone, though purposefully repellent, contains a quality of intimacy that is unavoidable. He asks readers to examine a self-inflicted, comma-shaped scar at the beginning of the novel, tells us what pages to skip, what pages to dog-ear, and shortly after remarking that books are made to be destroyed, he admits: “I consider reading a form of prayer. And you should too. You’d feel holier already. Even reading this piece of shit would classify as spirit work.” Neptune invites us to prayer in loneliness and fistfights, cigarette burns and explosions, and we are all a little more spiritual for the partaking.