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Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite
If The Art of Love (& Loathing) by Stephen Daniel Ruiz were an academic treatise, it might be called: A Study in Cynicism. But it is not. Nor, as might be suggested by this inauspicious opening, is it gratuitously heavy-handed in its mordacity. Quite the opposite. This admittedly uncomfortable novel is also highly literate and extremely well crafted. Thus tempting one to consider it more real-to-life than unnecessarily negative, and thus more realistic than other contemporary fiction, especially of the overly feel-good type. What I’m trying to do here is set some realistic expectations. The Loathing aspect of the title should not be set aside or overlooked, although self-loathing might be more apt. Are we good, then?
Arthur Kimble is the featured self-loathing and distrustful writer in Stephen Daniel Ruiz’s contemporary novel, The Art of Love (& Loathing). Kimble is a contemporary man suffering contemporary angst over contemporary failures. The problem is: Arthur Kimble is not a failure. He is an accomplished author of great skill, working successfully for a publication he admires(d), unable, however, to successfully apply his truly enviable mental faculties to the dissolution of his family, his life, or ultimately himself. Not for lack of introspective effort. Nor for attempted interventions by distrusted friends. Not even for love. Eventually, even the reader becomes rather unsupportive, stepping aside from further emotional involvement or support just to watch Kimble’s progressive decline. But then … that baked apple pie in the vending machine gets stuck. And it feels an awful lot like hope.