Book Review: Why Picking Up Bad Idea by Damon Suede is the Best Notion You Could Have Today
Some books are sinful candy—decadent escapes leaving us high and searching for another confection. Some novels are art, richly painted with skill and care, resonating with us for months or even years as we parse the wisdom they reveal. Get ready to have dessert for dinner, readers: Damon Suede’s Bad Idea is both.
Bad Idea is the story of Trip Spector, a comic book artist whose joy has been nearly extinguished by corporate culture but rediscovers his spark through Silas Goolsby, special-effect makeup artist and winking ray of sunshine to Trip’s Fortress of Dour. Through a sometimes halting, beautifully bumbling, raw, real relationship, Silas gives Trip the greatest gift an artist can be given: an ocean and an anchor, a space to dream with a tether, safety inside the dangerous waters of creativity. Together Trip and Silas forge dreams, build worlds, and carve out a love for one another breathless for its grounding and its honesty.
The love story between Trip and Silas and the chance to watch the creation of art in real time is reason enough to read Bad Idea, but Suede weaves depth and breadth into his sophomore novel which rival the witchery of Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman. Bad Idea is rich not only with world but truths, some simple, some so expansive they will take multiple re-readings of the novel to fully grasp. Every page is a quotable minefield, sometimes for humor, sometimes for wisdom, often for both.
But also in the style of Pratchett and Gaiman, Suede drizzles insight like delicately-sweetened caramel sauce over out-and-out fun. Comic conventions, make-up trailers, Hollywood-style premiers, not one but two zombie runs—reading Bad idea is not a hem-lift of curious curtains but a balls-deep wallow in worlds few of us are allowed to experience, and our vehicles of travel are unique characters of the style only Suede can provide. He openly credits their inspiration from friends and fans, but the subtle, skillful breath of Suede can be felt on each eyelash of his creations.
As an author myself, for me the greatest gift of Bad Idea is in Suede’s unabashed and sometimes out-and-out naked examination of what it means to create, to wrestle with not only the demons of doubt but the marrow-chilling fear of failure that comes even when we know in our soul the reward is worth the risk. Creating art is organic, yes, but real biology, not some sanitized recap on Discovery. Peeling open the bud of a project takes more than work. It takes soul, magic, power, and sacrifice—all for a reveal which often occurs with no one to appreciate the bloom. Sometimes those who see our creation barely note the color before they pluck the petals for their own purposes. Art is pain and terror and death as much as it is beauty and light, and Bad Idea does not shy from this reality. At the same time, like all romance novels it is the story of hope. Truth and realism with a happy ending.
Bad Idea is a novel about art told through art. It is a romp, a lark, a joy, a revelation. It can be read with a carefree heart and enjoyed on its rich, layered surface or it can be mined for its endless veins. It can make you laugh. It can make you cry. It will make you think—and it will bring you joy.
Above all else, Bad Idea makes me proud. I’m friends with the author, but I would be proud of this book even if I had never so much as heard his name before I cracked this novel’s spine. Bad Idea is a book about creativity and art, and it makes me proud to be an artist. Bad Idea gives me hope for my own work. It makes my soul happy simply thinking about it, and every re-read is another decadent dip into one of the smartest romantic adventures readers will ever take.
Once you start this ride, you won’t want to stop, and as soon as you finish, you’ll want nothing more than to go back and read it again. I suggest you strap yourself in right now.