The Valley of Granite and Steel by Mike Maggio

The Valley of Granite and StteelI can categorically say I’ve never read anything like this before. In a good way.  That may just be a statement of my ignorance of a whole genre, sub genre or whatever and I’d love to think that there are many, many more American writers out there writing this kind of stuff. Because it certainly bucks the trend of what I expect from contemporary American fiction. Although I think the last piece of American fiction I read was This Book Does not Exist Which also isn’t exactly representative of American fiction (I think) but was also like nothing I’d ever read before. So maybe I am the stoopid one here, maybe I should get my hiney out on the internet and check out many more American novels on the indie ebook circuit.

But enough of my ignorance.  If I were to categorise (simply in an attempt to explain) this book I’d call it ‘magic realism meets political satire’ and sit back thinking I was smart. Except I’m still not really sure I know what magic realism is.  So I may be wrong on that score.  But when folk start flying through the air and presidents lose their mouth and black guys get two mouths and the like, I’m realising that I’m not in the average, downtown world of political satire where I feel a bit more at home.

The story is told through three main sets of characters. The President of the United States (a loosely disguised G.W.Bushalike), a downtrodden African American called Larry White and a Pakistani immigrant called Choudry and his extensive family.  The central narrative explores what it means to have a voice. This is told through mouths. Too many and too few of them with hilarious, but quite serious results.  It deals with the role of politics, religion and racist stigmatising and stereotyping – and yet is much funnier than this could possibly suggest.  It’s not laugh out loud knockabout humour; rather, you buy into the whole ridiculous world in the same way that you have to for something like Gullivers Travels. But it’s political and social satire of that ilk in a modern setting.

What I liked about this book was how remarkably ordinary the description was. This completely absurd story was told in straightforward, simple, often quite elegant language which urged you to ingest it like the whole thing could be real. Which of course it couldn’t. Could it? – Well, that’s the whole crux of political satire isn’t it? And so one big fat tick on that score.

Having spent what seems like an interminable lifetime (10 years) being an unsuccessful screenwriter, I rarely indulge in the ‘this would make a good film’ line – because it’s such a fruitless comment to make. But in this case I say it because while reading I could actually see this film in the style of a Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze film. Mike Maggio fills Charlie Kaufman’s role of course. Which is saying something as I have the utmost respect for Charlie Kaufman.  For me (and I stress only for me – I suspect there are many more apposite analogies from modern film – a culture I have abandoned in the last 10 years) it had shades of Being John Malkovich meets Eternal Sunshine meets Inception – but this is a stylistic comment not one on the narrative per se. What I’m saying is there are guys who would make the most fantastic film version of this story using in camera effects and all kind of narrative ‘tricks’ But of course it would never get funded any more than it would get a mainstream publisher. Because it’s not telling the sort of story that attracts funding. The voice is too ‘out there’, too challenging to put big bucks behind, or even indie bucks behind I’m guessing. So it wouldn’t make a good film where a good film is determined by box office return. In a parallel universe where creativity counts for more than money it would make a great indie film and gain a great cult following – and I guess it should do the same in ebook form. It is a great read.  But its visuality just cries out to be seen.  We should, though, consider ourselves lucky that while we can’t see it on any kind of a screen, because of the digital revolution we can imagine it for ourselves. We don’t have to feed only on McMainstream fodder.

You can’t buy this book on Amazon or through the ‘usual’ sources. You have to go to to purchase it. Which in itself may be significant. There is much more to explore in American publishing than you might imagine. The Write Deal is a different kind of publishing model – a bookstore which you can become a member of, selling ebooks which I’ll lay odds wouldn’t get out there in the mainstream market any other way. Yes, they might languish in the depths of Amazon’s store, but this is a more proactive way of creating a niche. Here you can browse and download right from the publisher. I predict we’ll see many more of these endeavours in the coming years.

Find out more about Mike Maggio

 Find more reviews  from Reading Between the LinessmallREADING



About callyphillips

3 Responses to The Valley of Granite and Steel by Mike Maggio

  1. Julia Jones says:

    fascinating and i agree about the intriguing proliferation of non-commerical book outlets. Was talking to my son about his most recent reading. A simple pdf discovered on reddit and sent directly by the author.

  2. Julia Jones says:

    The title of the book that B has been reading is so un-catchy “The Metaporphosis of Prime Intellect” that I struggle to remember it. HOWEVER I did remember and I googled it and was interested to notice that (a) it’s huge, in its arena (b) a reader made a kindle version. Just because.
    Here’s the link I clicked

  3. Julia Jones says:

    (Metamorphosis was what I intended to type)

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