The Magnificent Maggnom Opus
Author: Diana Watson
Publisher: N/A- Self Published
Number of pages: 438
Before I begin my review of The Magnificent Maggnom Opus I need to say that I know the author personally. I was not involved in the creation or editing process of this novel and my review of it is certainly not impacted by my friendship with the author.
Diana Watson’s debut novel is a very compelling example of how small press or self-publishing is allowing talented writers an opportunity to create engaging and compelling pieces of work that might have otherwise been given a chance at publication in a major press environment. The wonderfully crafted prose of The Magnificent Maggnom Opus explores the complex relationships and shared experiences that take place between over a dozen different characters, each person we encounter has a unique voice that we can not only hear in our head as we read, but we can see it on the page through the author’s use of language and perspective. The book uses each chapter as an opportunity to place the reader inside the head of a different character, at times we are revisiting a single event from a different perspective and at others we are experiencing the aftermath of a crucial point in the narrative. This stylistic choice of story telling is done very well by Diana Watson, it never seems contrived or out of place, the only issue that I take with it is the seemingly necessary exposition that occurs at times. It approaches dangerous ground, but I do not feel that it detracts from the story or writing style.
The novel begins with the introduction of Feuer Frei, a four man German heavy metal band destined for Nola (New Orleans) just in time for Mardi Gras in an attempt to rekindle the creative energies of the group after a close to two decade career. It is there in Nola that they enter the sphere of the novel’s namesake, Maggnom Opus, also known as Tully Kappell, celebrated author, screenwriter and director with some skill at roller derby. The first chapter puts us inside the head of one Hans Widermann, as the men discover the special flavor of America that only New Orleans has to offer, which is quickly forgotten as Maggnom makes her way onto the page in all her violent glory. The chapter ends with a shift away from the immediate story as a transcript of two people announcing the events of the roller derby bout; this technique of shifting styles at the end of the chapter happens throughout the book in a very effective way.
As Maggnom befriends the men and welcomes them into her home, it becomes clear that things for the fivesome are about to change forever. As we move from character to character we see two people emerge that have become shaped over time into the perfect companions for one another, true lovers and partners. We experience the transformation of Maggnom Opus, a hard hitting daredevil, into Tully Kappell, a loving mother and artist with a strict moral code that is only matched by her sailor’s mouth and appetite for sex. We see trials and triumphs (could have used a little more error, maybe) as Tully Kappell finds the second love of her life, and has events from her past come into play that she never imagined would leave her frozen and unsure.
There is never a dull moment to be found within this book, from BDSM laden sex to man eating jaguars, we follow the characters through multiple arcs that fold so perfectly back into the main story that you never question the view of the person you are experiencing. The book is full of characters central to the story, each one presented wonderfully through the use of a variety of dialects and languages, from Barb with her southern drawl, to the members of Feuer Frei and their German version of English.
The book feels to be very well researched, which is unexpected for a first novel by an amateur writer going the self-publishing route. I happen to know that Diana has been a member of a roller derby squad and that she actually learned German in order to authentically write her German rock-stars. I also happen to know that some of her favorite pieces of music are present in the story, and that her husband is a professional musician. In fact, it was hard for me to remember that the story wasn’t meant to be autobiographical; it is a piece of fiction and Diana makes great use of that fact in her portrayal of Tully. It seems that there is not a thing in the world that Tully cannot confront and master; she is Superwoman, if Superwoman had a stubborn streak and a penchant for outrageously inappropriate humor. Tully is Teflon coated and even in her moments of weakness she emerges the victor of her own self, stronger than before.
My only real gripe about the book is the dog that appears in the later half, Deeogee (the phonetic D O G). There is a slight anthropamorphizing that takes place that bothered me. The dog is overly smart to the point where it is convienant for the writer, I wish this one character had been rewritten or absorbed into another character. Compared to those around him, Deeogee feels like he is trying too hard to be noticed.
Over all, I was very impressed with the depth and scope of The Magnificent Maggnom Opus. There is no subject too taboo for us to touch upon but nothing feels like it was simply dropped onto the page to push boundaries, the characters are free to explore themselves and discover within what they cannot live without, and by the time we leave Costa Rica you know that this is a love story, a story about survival, and that sometimes we need to be reminded of one simple phrase; “Welcome to the world, it full of adventure”.