‘Heather, The Totality’ by Matthew Weiner – Faux Minimalism

 

‘Heather, The Totality’ by Matthew Weiner   (2017) – 134 pages

I admit I enjoyed ‘Mad Men’ the TV series which Matthew Weiner was heavily involved in creating, writing, and directing.  However I found ‘Heather The Totality’, Weiner’s first novel, to be sketchy and cartoonish and sub-mediocre.

You as a reader know you’re in trouble when a writer uses words like “rich” and “beautiful” and “handsome” with little or no elaboration or explanation to describe their characters.  ‘Heather, The Totality’ has such simplistic and unrealistic one-dimensional portrayals of its characters.  There is a preposterous contrast between the two main families portrayed in the novel.   One family is shown as rich and beautiful and near perfect.  The other family is led by the mother who is a heroin addict and allows a bunch of heroin addicts to party and lay around on the floor at her home until morning.  And her son Bobby, this guy is one bad, bad dude. He goes to prison for nearly killing a woman he wanted to rape.  I can see where Weiner wanted to contrast the wonderfulness of the one family with the horribleness of the other, but this is ridiculous.

The story here has the depth of a ‘Family Guy’ cartoon, a show I detest.

Even though Matthew Weiner is a professional screenwriter, there is hardly any direct dialogue in this novella.  That is why some reviewers called ‘Heather, in Totality’ a treatment rather than a work of fiction.  It is like each character is a blank to be filled in by a perceptive actor or actress.  Since there are no actors or actresses available for the reader, this does not help.

On the back cover of the novel there is an army of misguided glowing raves for ‘Heather, The Totality’ from famous writers, which for me is usually a bad sign.

‘Heather, The Totality’ has been called a minimalist novel, but I would call it a dumbed down minimalism.  A couple of the blurbs on the back of the novel mentioned Richard Yates, and these references made me angry.  I have read all of Richard Yates and am deeply impressed with his work. Richard Yates has great empathy for his characters. Matthew Weiner is in no way a Richard Yates.  Yates had a tremendous depth to his work, while this novella by Weiner is superficial and all on the surface.  Weiner and his admirers should be made to realize there is more to being a minimalist novelist than keeping your book short.

If you want to read a good minimalist novella, you might as well read the real thing, and I would suggest ‘The Easter Parade’ by Richard Yates instead.

 

Grade :   C-

 

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Greetings! I’ve just discovered that WordPress isn’t sending the usual email notifications of new posts from some of my favourite bloggers 😦
    So, apologies if you think I’ve been ignoring you!

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  2. I read this book expecting so much more than what it was. Your review however, is spot on. And you’ve reminded me I need to read more Richard Yates.

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    • HI Lorna,
      Your opinion of ‘Heather, the Totality’ seems to match mine, a disappointment from the guy largely responsible for ‘Mad Men’.
      We also both have high regard for Richard Yates Even though during his lifetime Yates wasn’t as famous as such writers as John Updike and Norman Mailer, by now he has surpassed them both. .

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  3. Thanks for steering me away from this book. I would have thought it worth a try as Mad Men had a lot going for it. And the recommendation to read Richard Yates is a nice bonus!

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    • Hi Charlotte,
      We heard a lot about Revolutionary Road because of the movie, but the other novels and stories by Richard Yates are just as well done.
      I watched quite a lot of Mad Men and was expecting much more from Heather.

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