Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
No Birds Sing Here by Daniel V. Meier Jr. is the story of a road trip taken by Beckman and a lady he meets by the name of Malany. Both are running from a life they no longer want to lead, and both are frustrated artists. Malany has paid a vanity press to publish her poetry book while her traveling companion is intending to begin writing his first novel, as soon as he receives the inspiration and possibly the experience. Anything has to be better than working in a restaurant with a very strange co-worker and a clutter of yowling cats beneath his window. The journey begins with the premise that if you appear successful, others will believe you are. But plans go awry as the pair meets a cast of unsavory characters who have no affinity for culture, preferring to whore, drink and take drugs. While some passers-by are left behind, others take their place. Beckman is forced to flee on more than one occasion.
My overall impression of No Birds Sing Here by Daniel V. Meier Jr. is a cross between ‘Thelma and Louise’ and Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. No one is quite who they appear, all the characters wear masks, hide their history, and play make-believe with abandon. They also have several brushes with the law, and at times it leaves you wondering if the consequences of their antics will catch up with them. This book falls firmly in the literary category with characters that come to life but behave outside the boundaries followed by the majority of society. There are some real gems here and there, my favorite was ‘… the angry glances of Hispanic maids pushing baby strollers which held the inheritors of vast fortunes.’ I liked the excellent descriptions of small-town America and the story unfolds at a satisfying pace. It’s impossible not to keep reading to find out what will happen to them all in the end. A very different book from Meier’s first novel and an unexpected scenario that lovers of books that dive beneath the perceived surface of society will enjoy.
MIDWEST REVIEW OF BOOKS
No Birds Sing Here gives literary readers of satirical fiction the story of Beckman and Malany, who embark on a quest for finding new meaning in life, art, and the trappings of daily living.
Not only satire but irony permeates the story, creating many moments of raw insight and reflection about the rituals of work and leisure alike: "At moments, when feelings of revulsion swept over him, he deliberately, with eyes open, reached into the nearest full garbage can and squeezed between his fingers the raw materials of his livelihood."
The novel journeys through disparate experiences, from Beckman's dishwasher job to his reflections about possible other incarnations, which are evocatively portrayed: "Beckman believed that, if it had not been for the paved highway, strictly divided and regulated by white and yellow lines, and for the trash deposited along the grassy shoulders, he could have been in some medieval forest, populated with knights, magicians and beautiful ladies in long gowns and veils suffering some quiet distress of the heart."
These reflections inject his vision with something more than mundane observations, adding a level of possibility and fantasy that juxtaposes nicely with real-world events.
The dialogue between Beckman and Malany is intriguing, documenting how changing circumstances constantly challenge their choices and provide new consequences for their actions: “You see how quickly things can change, how ironic life really is. A few minutes ago, we were running for our lives. Now we’ve saved the very person who was pursuing us.”
From changing prejudices and responsibilities to life encounters that add satirical overlays of inspection into what evolves to be a loveless life, Daniel V. Meier, Jr. uses these two characters to play off the inherent ironies of appearances and life circumstances.
The observations of others and their situations are also nicely presented: "The struggling poetess trying to make it on her own, rejecting the good and warm things of life so that she could write. Beckman had respected her for that above all else. The sincerity, the self-denial, the radicalism and the determination had all been an illusion that she had called, with conviction, “reality.”
No Birds Sing Here's special blend of literary observation, satirical commentary, and philosophical examination flows through the lives of a group of disparate characters. This makes for thought-provoking reading which is especially recommended as a powerful example of the power of satire and irony in literary fictional approaches.
College-level students, especially those who enjoy representations of these devices paired with a flavor of discovery reminiscent of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, will find No Birds Sing Here a commendable creation, indeed.
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer,
Review by Kate Robinson
"People don’t want poetry or literature. They want celebrities, half-crazy celebrities."
Mix a dram of Hunter Thompson, a dash of Kerouac, a pinch of Tom Wolfe, a sprinkle of Palahniuk, a dab of Salinger, and a heaping spoonful of Scott Fitzgerald. Shake liberally, and what emerges is an urban literary concoction that rises to the level of the best road trip stories ever told. At turns ribald and violent, at others tender and thoughtful, this tale starts mildly enough when Beckman, a disenchanted dishwasher with literary aspirations, flees his dead-end job and his writer's block to hit the road with Malany, a remarkable poet he encounters at a used book store. He concocts his theatrical plan after they jump out of his dive apartment window and head through the Southeast in her rickety Oldsmobile.
Malany is not impressed with Beckman's dishonest PR games. But in the interest of selling her stash of vanity-published poetry volumes, she goes along for the ride anyway, funding the trip with her mysterious, cash-filled envelopes. As the mismatched pair travel deeper into Southern literary territory, they cross paths with an assorted cast of clichéd and yet not so clichéd characters, from a tattooed redneck biker to a wealthy sexual predator with pretentious literary fantasies.
Meier's storytelling hits the ground running with every aspect of literary skill inherent from the first page onward: memorable prose, vivid characterizations, and scenes that move incessantly forward with much rumination about the meaning of life and letters, whether from the viewpoint of gritty pool halls and rancid jail cells or between perfumed sheets in the rarified world of academia. Readers in the mood for a loveless, sexy road trip tale should enjoy this one.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review.
A deeply poignant, engaging read…
Meier offers fascinating glimpse into the journey of two young people struggling to find meaning and reality in their artistic life in this moving tale. Instead of joining his wealthy father’s law firm, the young and rebellious, Beckman, an aspiring novelist, is trying to make end meets working as a dishwasher in a dingy eat-out. But when his path crosses with Malany, a struggling poetess, he realizes he has found a purpose in life. Meier’s prose is lively and absorbing, and his lyrical narrative evokes his protagonists’ desperation and sorrow, as well as their determination to survive. Throughout, his observations of the literary world are conveyed with precise clarity: he skillfully captures the duo’s bleak despair and then slowly, cautiously, traces their fledgling attempts to find some sort of success in their artistic lives. Beckman and Malany dominate the narrative, but even secondary characters emerge fully formed. Lovers of literary fiction and women’s fiction will be greatly rewarded.
In this humorous rebuke of faux intellectualism, two misguided individuals set out on a journey to discover what it means to be an artist. Beckman is a wannabe author and psychokinetic who spends his time re-reading his own work, dreaming about the future, and causing trouble. Malany is a poet with manufactured success who maintains a devoted asceticism, abstaining from all forms of excess. Both are fleeing their former lives: Beckman refuses to follow in his lawyer father’s footsteps, while Malany avoids her doting, wealthy husband. The two embark on a transcontinental odyssey, pretending to be established writers in small towns across the U.S. From disapproving rednecks to shallow and hedonistic academics, the couple encounter a cast of characters as lost as they are, unhappy with their circumstances but unable to transcend them.
Meier (The Dung Beetles of Liberia) has written a scathing satire, a critique of empty artistry. Through Beckman and Malany, he explores the identities of two annoyingly inauthentic people. Although a self-professed writer, Beckman never produces anything throughout the story, waiting for the “right” experience to spark his inspiration. Malany, though devoted to her work, is not the radical she appears to be, hiding her true origins to maintain a façade of independence. Because the two main characters are so self-serious, the book is often funny. Even more minor characters put on airs to an amusing extent: A pool shark’s crafted machismo hides the secret of his sexuality, while a professor’s wife playacts as various literary figures. No one is likeable, which limits the novel’s audience but also seems to be the point.
The prose can be flowery (“He sat on the edge, shivering for a long time, steeped in wordless disgust at his present condition in life”), but with Beckman as the protagonist, the oft-pretentious descriptions play as comic. However, less successful sentences (“He pretended anger, but Herschel, with omnificent impenetrability, looked as insular as a priest who had just performed Mass”) can be choppy and difficult to read. For the most part, however, the satire lands, and the story is fast-paced and thought-provoking.
Takeaway: This satirical novel’s social critique swipes amusingly at writerly pretensions and small towns full of secrets.
Great for fans of: Virginie Despentes's Vernon Subutex, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
No Birds Sing Here is a satire that follows two young aspiring authors, Beckman and Malany. The duo tries to escape the mundanity of their everyday lives when one day Beckman decides he has had enough. They flee through an apartment window and hit the road! Along the way, they discuss how they’ll actually make it as writers. And in an effort to get their names out there, they pull some wild antics and play up all the artistic clichés.
Author Daniel V. Meier, Jr. has created a complex plot compared to most satirically driven stories. And there are many highs and lows to this riveting story. Where one part lacks another shines so bright it’s blinding. Meier’s character building left me with mixed emotions. Due to the lack of descriptions of Beckman and Malany, I had a hard time visualizing them in my mind. Although, when it came to the construction of their personalities, I felt that Meier was spot on with details. Within the first few chapters I could tell what kind of people Beckman and Malany were. That also lent to me being able to figure out what their story arcs would be. I appreciate Meier’s sharp satirical take on artists and what their audiences truly want. His incisive portrayal of human desire and all of its clichés is wildly fascinating. With nimble writing and refreshing viewpoints the story gave me off beat poet generation vibes, which I adore. His metaphors mimicked the style of that generation and overall gives the story some color.
No Birds Sing Here is a literary adventure that I heartily enjoyed for its savvy dialogue and intriguing views. But I would have loved to have gotten more backstory within the early pages because the characters are captivating and I wanted more of them. Author Daniel V. Meier gives readers a road trip they won’t soon forget.
Pages: 250 | ASIN: B08GZGFYLF