Actually two acid tests in the same week and neither of them having anything to do with Ken Kesey.
My Dad has been keeping his copy of Vitus Dreams on his mantelpiece, in a plastic bag, in pride of place in case anyone visits, although there can't be that many people on the planet he hasn't yet buttonholed about the fact I've published my first novel. But, until last week, his copy was unread.
I honestly didn't respect him to like it. Dad's the kind of person who needs the plot of straightforward adventure movies explaining to him. Vitus Dreams isn't exactly straightforward. I could imagine the long, long hours trying to explain the book to him. Not to mention the long, long days and weeks it would take him to read it.
Was I ever wrong.
He devoured it in just about two days. He was delighted, enthralled, entranced. It wasn't like anything he'd read before. It made him laugh, cry, and wonder what he'd been missing all these years.
He'd acquired the taste.
During the course of last week, Dad went on to read Konrad Bayer's the sixth sense (a big inspiration for Vitus Dreams) and another 5 or 6 short collections of experimental fiction, such as H.C. Artmann's Skewed Tales, Stefen Themerson's Special Branch, and The Complete Works of Urmuz. He's currently chortling with glee over Slawomir Mrozek's collection, The Elephant.
There's a thrill in getting someone new to share your love of a writer or a kind of writing, but this was doubly satisfying. Innovative/experimental/anti-traditional fiction (whatever you want to call it) is supposed to be hard, stand-offish, not worth the effort required to read it. And, yes, some of it unquestionably is, but I felt for ages that, given the right intro, more people would find the joy that is in this much maligned area: the wonder of encountering something new and out of the ordinary, the sheer luxuriance of wallowing in so much intervention and imagination.
And to think my novel was the trigger that introduced Dad to all this …
Oh, and the second acid test? Vitus Dream's first Amazon review. A 5 start review, I might add. Entitled: "What to read something a little different?"
Adam Craig is a co-director of Cinnamon Press and editor of Cinnamon's innovative fiction imprint, Liquorice Fish Books. His first novel, Vitus Dreams, was published earlier this year.