Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Fiction: I Hate You, Kelly Donahue by Mark Svartz

On his first day of work at his new job (“New job has free coffee. I like it.”) Mark lays eyes on Kelly Donahue and vows to “PHYSICALLY DEFEAT HER IN A PHYSICAL FIGHT TO THE DEATH. PHYSICALLY” Mark spends the next eight months pressing, stalking and planning the demise of his co-worker, Kelly Donahue.

I Hate You, Kelly Donahue (Adams Media) has been created to look just like a spiral-bound notebook. The pages appear hand-written on unlined paper, with sketches, taped in newspaper clippings, maps and other ephemera relating to the plot against Kelly Donahue.

According to his bio, author Svartz is “an author, artist and award-winning advertising creative,” so the work itself is unsurprisingly good. And there is even something like charm in certain aspects of the book. His obsession with Kelly Donahue, for instance, at times seems very much like a school boy’s crush on the girl in the seat in front of him: though he might talk about punching her at recess, he really has love in his heart.

The thing is, even with that charm, there are distressing aspects. The narrator alternately stalks his subject and plots her demise, right down to planning the best places to stash body parts or area rugs to hide evidence. And, sure: there is an element of levity about all of this and you really get (at least, I did) that it’s all tongue-in-cheek, but there’s still something uncomfortable about it. Like the racist joke you can’t help laughing at, even while you hate yourself for it.

All of that said, I’m still not sure how I feel about I Hate You, Kelly Donahue. To be honest, parts of it made me laugh out loud even if, afterwards? I felt like I needed a shower. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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