Gabbler Recommmends: Not Here To Make Friends

“That the question of likability even exists in literary conversations is odd. It implies we are engaging in a courtship. When characters are unlikable, they don’t meet our mutable, varying standards. Certainly, we can find kinship in fiction, but literary merit shouldn’t be dictated by whether or not we want to be friends or lovers with those about whom we read.

Writers are often told a character isn’t likable as literary criticism, as if a character’s likability is directly proportional to the quality of a novel’s writing. This is particularly true for women in fiction. In literature as in life, the rules are all too often different for girls. There are many instances where an unlikable man is billed as an anti-hero, earning a special term to explain those ways in which he deviates from the norm, the traditionally likable. Beginning with Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, the list is long. An unlikable man is inscrutably interesting, dark, or tormented but ultimately compelling even when he might behave in distasteful ways. This is the only explanation I can come up with for the popularity of, say, the novels of Philip Roth who is one hell of a writer, but also a writer who practically revels in the unlikability of his men, their neuroses and self-loathing (and, of course humanity) boldly on display from one page to the next.

When women are unlikable, it becomes a point of obsession in critical conversations by professional and amateur critics alike. Why are these women daring to flaunt convention? Why aren’t they making themselves likable (and therefore acceptable) to polite society? In a Publisher’s Weekly interview with Claire Messud about her recent novel The Woman Upstairs, which features a rather “unlikable” protagonist named Nora who is bitter, bereft, and downright angry about what her life has become, the interviewer said, “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.” And there we have it. A reader was here to make friends with the characters in a book and she didn’t like what she found.

Messud, for her part, had a sharp response for her interviewer. “For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t ‘Is this a potential friend for me?’ but ‘Is this character alive?’

It is a seductive position a writer puts the reader in when they create an interesting, unlikable character — they make you complicit, in ways that are both uncomfortable and intriguing.”

-Roxanne Gay, BuzzFeed Books.

Ten MORE things you might not know about THE AUTOMATION – in GIFs!



1. If you did not know, THE AUTOMATION is a novel that thinks it’s a memoir, but whose editor thinks it’s a brilliant work of fiction.  Thus, there are footnotes that argue with the Narrator…

2. In the very first chapter, there’s a man who appears to be a time traveler (that, or he’s prepared for the next steampunk convention). However, he’s just traveled through time the old fashioned way—living it.

3. This man proceeds to commit suicide in front of young man named Odys Odelyn [alliteration purposeful]. 

4. But before all that he gives Odys Odelyn a gift. A – um – magic coin, you might say.

5. When Odys touches the coin after the man dies, something unexpected happens. The coin is not a coin. In fact, it turns into an Automaton. Kinda like a jinni in a bottle. But not.

6. This Automaton functions off of Odys’s soul—she is an extension of his body. Theoretically, the more Automatons you have the more bodies you have. Sort of like chopping up your soul into little functional pieces. Like Voldemort. But not.

7. BUT, in order to get more Automatons, their “Masters” have to die. Thus, most Masters agree you should only have one.

8. HOWEVER, there’s one master, named Leeland, who disagrees with this only-one rule. Like I said, most. In fact, he’s picking off Masters right and left and collecting their Automatons like some demented Pokémon master.

9. And let’s just say Odys has a hard time being both a boy and girl at the same time. He goes through a reality check or two.

10. Eventually, Odys will get closer to finding out why the suicidal man gave his Automaton to Odys. …And why he was willing to die to do so.

BONUS: Publishers Weekly called the Automation “charming” and you can read the entire novel for free at

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Tweets of the Week: A Bird’s Eye View

So, these tweets happened:

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellow B&N | Amazon | Etc.