"That which does not kill us only makes us want to die."
– Vincent Spinetti
It has often been said that to be a great artist, one has to suffer. The flames of creativity burn brightest when fed misery, loss, and unrequited love. If this is true, then Joey Goebel must have suffered much to be able to write his amazing novel, Torture The Artist.
What if it was someone’s job to make sure that the artist was always "inspired", that happiness was always just out of reach? What if children with potential were taken from their homes to be slowly psychologically tortured for the rest of their lives to write the songs, sitcoms, and movies that we devour and discard like candy? How could that person, the one that pays potential girlfriends to go away, kills beloved family pets, and burns down your childhood house be the "hero"? How could we care for him?
With the way that Goebel writes, it’s easy. Characters are introduced by their favorite bands, TV shows, and movies, instantly setting up our expectations and, yes, even making you care about those whose job it is to do terrible things to keep the artists of the world working.
Torture The Artist shrugs off your expectations and keeps you guessing, all the while digging its claws deep into the homogenized world of corporate entertainment. No one is safe from Goebel’s disdain of the mainstream as he takes stabs at the J.Los and Timberlakes of our world. Goebel has imbued Torture The Artist with a distinctive voice that could hold its own against the best of Chuck Palahniuk. He unfolds the story at an intriguing pace, always a few steps ahead, rearranging the furniture in rooms you thought you had pictured perfectly. He deftly makes you think about places the story is never going to go, so that you never see the deeper place it will really take you.
If Joey Goebel does indeed have his own professional torturer, then give that man a raise.