Review: Rooftop Soliloquy by Roman Payne

I just finished reading Roman Payne’s novel Rooftop Soliloquy and I have to say I had great expectations for this book. Payne was selected by Literature Monthly Magazine as one of the top five up and coming- out of the mainstream- authors and his new book RS sounded really interesting.

As some of you might have guessed, I have a flair for the eccentric so this sounded right up my alley and I looked forward to reading it. The opening sentence of the book  made me really want to read it as it sounded intriguing and tantalizing.

As I began the book I was transported back to various locations in Paris that I had the pleasure of visiting this summer. The story reads in a very poetic and lyrical manner, it’s like reading an epic poem like Beowulf or something by Homer. The ‘chapters’ are actually called a soliloquy in stead which I thought was a great little detail which really made the novel authentic. It’s about a writer/composer who is working on a hero’s tale while living in Paris and searching for his muse.

Linguistically and mechanically, the novel is flawless and beautiful- very pleasurable to read. However the story itself, characters, and over-all point of the novel left much to be desired.

I was kind of repulsed by the ‘hero’ who literally had sex with anything that moved. Now the man-whoring part wasn’t what repulsed me so much as the fact that he lied to just about every girl he met, used aliases with them, and basically like them on the ‘young-ish’ side so that he could steal their virginity. He presented himself as this kind of dashing, debonaire, sophisticated, charming man and apparently- it worked because the entire novel was literally about his sex-capades.

We never really learn anything about the narrator- never his real name only Aleksandre or Dmitry and in one case Julio. We never know where he is from only that he is a wanderer and has a wanderers soul- we don’t even really know what era the story is set in- only that he writes operas (maybe-maybe not), like to drink tons of wine, have sex, and perhaps is capable of murdering his ‘muse’ (Penelope) and her lover Pavel.

One part of the story which I found particularly sad was the narrator’s retelling of how he stole his muse’s (Penelope) virginity to her now lover Pavel. Without giving too much away about the story-Pavel loves Penelope desperately and she loves him. They plan to run away together and marry in America. The narrator ‘loves’ Penelope but only because he writes so beautifully when he’s with her and she was ‘pure’ (though still not sure why he is so smitten with her as he has had other virgins in the book??)- but when she said she wanted to marry him he refused and cut her off now that someone else wants her and she’s moved on, the narrator wants her back.

When he finds out that his ‘friend’ Pavel has also had sex with he, he flips out and decides to tell Pavel how he took her virginity- in lyrically beautiful details- and he wants Pavel and Penelope to have a ‘last supper’ with him so he can say good bye once and for all to Penelope and then Pavel and Penelope can live in peace together free of the narrator. Pavel- very wisely- says HELL NO and goes on the say he doesn’t want the narrator to steal her from him.

The  narrator replies: “Penelope is no longer pure for me, her body is twice-used and ragged. Je n’ai plus envie d’elle!”-I no longer envy her”. I thought this was a horrible double standard and cruel. This is when I decided that he was nothing more than a virginity seeking creeper! After that I was kind of sick of this guy and glad to be done with the book. I speed read the rest of the novel.

I don’t really know what the point of the story was except that maybe he was trying to re-write a more modern/tragic hero’s quest? Not sure- the only reason I kept reading it was for the linguistic prose. It was so easy to read and musical to the ear (and normally I can’t stand poetry especially epic poetry or mythology, if I had to take a call on the Iliad/Odyssey I would have failed miserably and been in agony!) and read so quickly and easily- it was like listening to a song- very beautiful.

I did struggle to finish the whole book and was rushing toward the end….I could only take so many pages of lyrical song before going mental….but I finished it surprisingly quickly. There was no real conclusion for me- nothing was really explained or finished. I felt like all he did was finish his epic (a whole soliloquy before the final one) and have sex with some new random girl and muse a little over the moon and rooftops-that was it. It felt unfinished for me and there was no real build up to the end, no real climax. The intro was too long and there were just too many women to keep track of and all the same.

This book is really worth reading if nothing else but for the beautiful language and poetic prose. It really is elegant and surprising- tantalizing and – sensual. It isn’t quite a love story and it isn’t quite an epic hero’s tale but it is a beautiful- and long- soliloquy.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Rooftop Soliloquy by Roman Payne

  • Kindle Edition, 258 pages
  • Published October 1st 2009 by Moderoom Press
  • ISBN 0578032813 (ISBN13: 9780578032818)

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3 out of 5

Genre: Contemporary Lit, Literature

Memorable lines/quotes: 

Mine was a world of rooftops and love songs

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4 Comments

  1. fivereflections

     /  November 28, 2010

    I like how the book enraptured you back into your adventures in Paris and how you found the opening sentence sounding intriguing and tantalizing.

    First sentences have sometimes become as deceptive as the hero, you have creatively described…

    Why are so many young maidens smitten with the hero? The answer could evolve into a novel…

    Even though you became tired of the hero, you give praise for the beautiful language and poetic prose – bravo!

    I hope you read this book again in ten years or so and compare notes. I’d enjoy reading them…

    I enjoyed reading this post.

    Reply
  2. Ooh! This does sound very interesting – and I’m always happy to read literature set in Paris. This book sounds worth a shot if even just for the experimental part – so I think I’ll go for it and add it to my list.

    Thanks for the review!

    Reply
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