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There's a rapper named Logic (real name Bobby Hall) who has a new novel and companion album out, both called Supermarket.

Somebody sent me a copy of the book for possible review, so I started reading it, because that's almost always a prerequisite for writing a review.

As it turns out, I might not have needed to read Supermarket to review it. It's more a business plan than a work of art. Logic's companion album, also called Supermarket, delivers the same vague quality of aspirational overreach. It's bad but not unpleasant music; banality presented with the good-natured over-confidence of an off-key karaoke singer with a blood alcohol level approaching .08.

I can't imagine anybody who's not a fan of Logic buying this book.

What's mildly surprising is that he has enough fans to push it to the top of the best-seller lists--it's already No. 1 on the Amazon charts. (As of this writing, it hadn't cracked The New York Times best-seller list, which uses a different methodology, but stay tuned.) It will be inevitably made into a movie, and who knows? Sometimes good movies are made from bad books.

And as bad books published only because of their author's celebrity go, Supermarket isn't the worst. It's just a book that no disinterested party would claim is genuinely good.

I heard enough of Logic's music (other than Supermarket) to know that while it's not the sort I'm going to invest a lot of time thinking about, he's a real artist. He presents as an overcomer--an earnest, sweet kid from a difficult upbringing with a lot of enthusiasm and charm.

Nothing in the novel belies that impression; Logic comes across as ambitious and callow; genuinely excited by new ideas, especially his own new ideas. Were I a teacher, I'd love students like Logic.

Had he turned in Supermarket as an exercise, I'd be impressed by his industry. I've read lots of books that were worse; more derivative, less competently realized. "Good job," I might tell the author; "way to hang in there and finish something. Now we need to tear this down and start over. "

The need to finish something is precisely the motivation of the novel's main character: After his girlfriend breaks up with him, in part because of his lack of follow-through, he sets out to write a novel to prove her wrong, then secures a publishing deal and a deadline. So he takes a job at a supermarket to crib details for his characters from real people. Things so terribly wrong; he has a psychic break and ends up in an asylum years later, with $9 million in the bank because his novel is a huge hit.

On the back of the book there's a blurb by Ernest Cline, who wrote Ready Player One, saying the book is "like Naked Lunch meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest--if they met at Fight Club." Which sort of makes sense in a strictly mechanical way in that the protagonist author of the book within the book is mentally ill and suffers delusions. If you've read Fight Club (or seen the movie) you know exactly where it's all going.

But word by word, sentence by sentence, this is a thoroughly banal product. While the plot might dip and climb as steeply (and predictably) as a roller coaster (and roller coasters can be fun, though a lot of us outgrow them), on a granular level Supermarket is one of the most generic books I've ever encountered.

It reads exactly like what Logic acknowledges it is: a book written in a hurry by someone who just spent a week "binge-reading novels for the first time" in their mid-20s. In an appearance on The Daily Show last month, he told host Trevor Noah that he was prompted to write the book because his manager expressed doubt that he could do it.

"How do you go from being a rapper--a very successful rapper--to just going, 'I'm going to write a novel'?" Noah asked.

"You just read a bunch of books and you're like, 'I can do that,'" Logic answered.

And Supermarket is a book.

It's just not a nuanced book, not the "gripping exploration into madness and creativity" that its publisher Simon & Schuster claims. It is not a good book, though if you are someone who thinks that anything that gets young people to read is a social good, then the Amazon reviews might be encouraging.

Many of Logic's fans are praising Supermarket. Some of them are claiming that it's the first book they've read in years (others say it sounds real good on Audible.com). One touchingly suggested that it sparked something in her, that she intended to seek out and read more books.

So who cares?

In this country, famous people are generally able to leverage their fame into money. Logic probably worked a lot harder on his novel than a lot of politicians worked on their memoirs and campaign accessories. I don't have any reason to doubt he wrote it himself. Theoretically, the money Simon & Schuster makes off Supermarket could allow them to take chances on writers who don't have Logic's fan base. And at least some of the kids who are buying and commenting on Logic's book might actually read it.

I'm not one for telling other people to stay in their lane. (Unless you're going through a roundabout in front of me. Then definitely stay in your lane.)

If you want to run for office, run for office. If you want to make a movie, make a movie. If you want to write a novel, well, good luck.

There's nothing wrong with dabbling. I think it's good for us to try to learn new skills and to play creatively.

But we all ought to understand that art requires discipline; if it comes easy, you're probably doing it wrong. Artists are not superheroes; they are people who spend years developing whatever innate ability they have. They have talent, they have inspiration, the urge to create, but they also have a reservoir of practice. They have technique and training.

It takes both spark and powder.

I don't think anyone in a books-or-food situation is going to choose this, so I don't know that anybody is exactly cheated by the publication and promotion of Supermarket.

Unless Logic thinks it makes him a real writer.

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

www.blooddirtangels.com

Editorial on 04/14/2019

Print Headline: Cheating logic

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