Item description for Vacation by Jeremy C. Shipp...
It's time for blueblood Bernard Johnson to leave his boring life behind and go on The Vacation, a yearlong corporate-sponsored odyssey. But instead of seeing the world, Bernard is captured by terrorists, becomes a key figure in secret drug wars, and, worse, doesn't once miss his secure American Dream.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.8" Width: 5.8" Height: 0.5" Weight: 0.5 lbs.
Release Date Apr 10, 2007
Publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press
ISBN 1933293411 ISBN13 9781933293417
The Future of an Obscure American Dream Sep 12, 2008
Jeremy Shipp's "Vacation" provides the reader with an escape on a intriguing holiday inside the human psyche. Shipp creates a psychological profile of the average human animal, almost reminiscent of Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five." This work of fiction is a search for one's place in the universe; where truth is subjective, and apathy can be as dangerous as conformity.
Bernard Johnson takes a government-sanctioned vacation, where he is to experience a pleasant, meditative break from his average nine-to-five life. Bernard is then thrust into a world where reality and surreality are one in the same. Bernard is constantly confronted with choices; he begins trying to understand himself and come to terms with the choices he has made. At points of self-reflection, Bernard is a Hardyan character. He is a dreamer; however, there is no support or happy ending for a dreamer. He comes to a point where choosing what's best for himself becomes counter-productive, and he must weigh other considerations, acting completely inhuman (get it? Ha!).
Shipp's story is a gatlin gun loaded with social commentary. Throughout this book, there is repetition. For example, consider a line such as "human beings have an uncanny ability to deny and forget." The only constant here is that humans are greedy and pathetic animals; we believe convenient lies in order to water-down our own reality, making it easier to cope with existence. Also, there is an inherent need for we humans to maintain control of our own lives, and have a sense of safety that there is order in the world. We elect leaders to make sure nothing bad happens to us, and help us turn a blind eye to everything we might disagree with, but would rather ignore. However, problems cannot be ignored, and doing so makes matters worse. In his "Far from the Madding Crowd," Thomas Hardy wrote "a resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible" (Hardy, 1874). I'm sure that Shipp is aware (as I'm sure Hardy was) that this a reality of human existence; something we cannot change. But perhaps if we were to consider and weigh the options given to Bernard, we would understand a lot more about ourselves.
This critique of the human animal by Jeremy Shipp is remarkably well-done. I highly recommend this novel for fans of Vonnegut, Palahniuk, and Hardy; you'll be taking quite an adventurous trip, without leaving your seat.
A book everyone needs to read. Trust me... Aug 26, 2008
Vacation is a tour de force that any fan, of any genre would love. Shipp gracefully melds many aspects of written form into an allegory of our own plight. It is very well written, and poignat. Consider this novel a vacation from every book, every story, you have ever read. Shipp is an author to keep an eye on. As someone stated before, "No one writes like, Shipp. And that's a good thing." Well said.
Strange and fantastic! Aug 21, 2008
This is one of the strangest novels I've ever read, and it's also one of the best. I'm not going to try to explain the plot, because I don't think I could if I tried. I'd recommend this book to anyone who's tired of the same old mainstream crap. After reading this novel, you might find yourself seeing the world in a completely different way.
war-torn forest and academia aren't all that dissimilar Jun 11, 2008
(This review originally appeared at Dogmatika [DOT] com)
Jeremy's C. Shipp's debut novel, Vacation, begins as an academic conspiracy yet quickly morphs into one involving the controlled mind in a hostile, remote forest environment; the implication being that the two settings--war-torn forest and academia--aren't all that dissimilar.
Vacation is structured as a meandering letter, possibly written by our protagonist, Bernard Johnson, to his parents as he suffers the aftermath of a corporate-sponsored vacation to various countries. His noble goal of "rebirth" is taken to the extreme as he is captured by terrorists and forced into a conspiracy involving class wars and antidepressants. And worse, he might just be willing to embrace this knowledge despite the possible repercussions against his reputation as a successful second generation English literature professor.
Vacation is the best type of conspiracy novel, following a nihilist from pessimistic to optimistic, though nihilistic he remains. The protagonist begins as an everyman, succumbs to mistrust and fear, and ultimately has that paranoia justified, though the powers responsible for the suspicion remain in power. Knowledge, in itself, is the reward. Though it comes not necessarily without moral baggage:
"...the truth--and I speak from experience--will yank apart the lobes of your brain and crap guilt into your conscience." [pg. 5]
Shipp's narrative style echoes of Palahniuk-ian turns of phrase and chorus lines, which he uses to economically embed thematic elements. While many writers have attempted to emulate Chuck Palahniuk's unique brand of minimalism, forcing the style where it's best left out, Shipp's story demands this approach; his characters thrive as smooth talking, lyrical people with the penchant for involvement in situations necessitating intelligence and wit. For example, take the following two lines:
"Another Pax [antidepressant] rolls down my throat...Pax means peace. It doesn't make you feel any more alive. Remember, the dead are peaceful." [pg. 10]
"And [God] could blow everything up into little bits, but he doesn't, for the same reason people don't blow up cemeteries." [pg. 131]
This style parlays well into the conspiratorial base of Vacation. Clever dialogue at every exchange is very telling of the history of Shipp's characters; they've been there, done that, so to speak, and are ready for any rebuttal. Additionally, because the story is told as a letter written in the aftermath of the story proper, a certain amount of self-awareness is allowed. This novel would not have worked nearly as well told as a present narrative.
Shipp also enlivens Vacation's conspiracy with meta-layers of commentary that, because the novel relishes in paranoia, the meta-layers represent a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of events. Bernard's occupation as an English professor especially reveals these correlations:
"My students learned that no matter how the protagonist encounters death, it always represents something important." [pg. 94] (revealed during an actual death in the story)
"Various truths about the world [are] embedded in fiction. Why fiction? Because people are more prone to believe foreign truths in an imagined reality than otherwise." [pg. 106] (a successful way to legitimize not just the story, but fiction in general)
I write this review as I sit on the beach during my own vacation, checking my shoulder for destruction at every footprint in the sand and at every personal encounter studying the eyes of strangers for a knowing glance. This breed of witty, past-paced fiction is a welcome additional to the growing Bizarro genre despite the accompanying guilt and paranoia.
A Magical Journey May 31, 2008
An author strives to transport his readers to another world; that of his imagination. Jeremy Shipp achieves that goal is this short novel. But it isn't an easy world he conveys.
His premise is simple. A jaded man--dissatisfied with his career, his lover, his life--goes on vacation in search of redemption. Shipp's writing style is stark and plain. In many ways his style reminds me of the English writer Magnus Mills.
Bernard Johnson, the son of an "Education Expert Extraordinaire, has gone from being a frustrated teacher to becoming an even more frustrated writer of lesson plans for other teachers. He's bored with every aspect of his life, including his hot girlfriend Hillary.
The only recourse is the vacation--though this is not what one usually envisions as a holiday. There are some similarities. Bernard does go to exotic locales, he does indulge in adventurous activities, he does change habits and attitudes as ordinary tourists do. But this is no ordinary excursion.
This vacation is no mere change of scenery. It is, in fact, a change of person. Shipp provides a stimulating venue with plenty of magic and metaphysics along the way.
Vacation is a surreal trip into a world you might not want to encounter. What goes on just beneath the surface will grasp your imagination and have this simplistic story haunting your mind for days after you've finished the book.