Release the Bats: Writing Your Way Out Of It by D.B.C. Pierre

Honesty dictates that I begin this review with a confession. This is a book ‘on writing’ unlike any that I have read till date. No, in fact to lend an even more transparent perspective, this book is unlike all the books ‘on writing’ that I have read. I cannot say that I have come out all the more wiser or intuitive after reading this book than from where I was before I opened its cover! “Release The Bats” is more a raucous, rambunctious, rabble rousing exercise in freewheeling spontaneity than a how-to-manual for an aspiring writer. As the author himself rightly says, stereotypical how-to-manuals on writing abound freely and are one too many. I personally feel that these dull, drab, run-of-the-mill works sully the bookshelves rather than add tangible value. However, “Release The Bats” is something else altogether! The four letter expletive of choice liberally litters the pages and each expletive is differentiated from the other only by the prefix accorded to it; head or rat for instance. DBC Pierre elucidates that writing for him was akin to ‘painting a dictionary on the back of live rats’ (how a person can even come up with such a peculiar analogy is beyond the grasp of my limited intellect). But reading his book for me was akin to trying to create a portrait on water! The venerable duo of Strunk and White would be left scratching their hair until their scalps completely peeled away!

Visualise Carlos Castaneda and Fritjof Capra joining together to devise a short and temporary course on the art of modern and postmodern literary criticism! Think about a completely stoned Charles Bukowski meeting the press after a book release! Imagine an inebriated Jean Paul Sartre on a combined overdose of methamphetamines and barbiturates holding forth on the need for proportion, poise and perseverance for achieving success as a writer! A condensed agglomeration of all these events and individuals make for DBC Pierre and his “Release The Bats”. For example when he says that one can be crazy but not effing crazy to write a book, I am left genuinely bewildered pondering an acceptable degree of lunacy that I should inculcate in order to begin writing.

In a curious piece of advice for which this Booker Prize winning author of “Vernon God Little” devotes an entire Chapter, I was treated to the pros and cons of imbibing various genres of drugs as an accoutrement if not an accompaniment for writing. I derived the following unique ranking of various deadly substances in the order of their level of acceptance or rejection:

  1. Cannabis – “Weed is a writerly drug. It is the drug of choice for staring at a blank page and watching stories grow in tangents.”
  2. Cocaine and Speed – “If you go for it I’d say try to finesse it into a perfect routine: open the page at the same time every day, lay out the lines and write to a specific target every time.”
  3. Ecstasy – “I’m inspired to think this might be a playwright’s drug”
    Opium – “If you take it in the vein you are either going to write a labyrinthine saga or nothing at all.”
  4. Hallucinogens – “Not even for a first draft”.

    Well! I will be damned! Hell even the pioneer of opening the doors of perception the genius Aldous Huxley would be damned!
    Finally in an Appendix to the book, DBC Pierre lays down certain guidelines for writing a book. Even here he doesn’t hold back. For e.g. one of the tenets advocates “Thomas Wolfe had to stand naked fondling his genitals in order to write well. Do what you have to do”

    Bloody hell, in DBC Pierre’s own words “F^%K IT!”

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