© by Jack Remick and Robert J Ray

We developed Samurai Critique  when we came to the conclusion that the goal of most critique sessions is to cut the guts out of the competition. Tell’em where they’re bad, don’t give’em a hint of how to fix it, you get rid of the guy who might push your work aside while his gets published. Can’t have that. So we developed a new style of Critique—Samurai. We cut much deeper.

For this you will need these specialized writing tools:

  1. A cross cut saw.
  2. Scalpels: 1 three feet long , the other one foot long for close work.
  3. An electric chain saw.
  4. Chrome mallet and chrome chisel.
  5. Circular bone saw
  6. Small surgical hooks.
  7. A good supply of surgical gloves and masks.
  8. A clean well lighted place to work in.
  9. Body bags (for multiple victim-sessions)
  10. A pick-up for hauling away bones.

What follows is the record of a typical Weekend Novelist Critique Session–This one conducted at Cloud City in Seattle.

This morning I feel sluggish. A slug of skin and bone creeping out of bed at 5:30 a. m. to check out yesterday’s disaster. The printed pages look like a slaughterhouse—pieces hacked out, axed, chopped to bits.

I pull up the whole manuscript on the computer then page to the section I worked with the boys—Bob and Joel.

Every Thursday we meet—three of us, sometimes four, but the last one got lost in the desert and the hogs ate him—at Judy Fu’s Chinese Restaurant for lunch. After lunch we walk to a café where we read manuscripts.

On Thursday they butchered me. They donned their surgical gloves and clean white surgical masks. No blood on bare skin, he might be infected, Bob said. It was a surgical op—first the finger joints of the left hand, then the wrist—bled pretty good there—then the elbow joint. They used a scalpel about three feet long on the elbow. Inserted the tip of the blade in the node of the joint the way a good butcher cuts a chicken and my arm fell onto the table—clunk

The shoulder needed a saw. They used a sixteen tooth saw with carbon steel teeth to scrape the bone, sever the cartilage, separate the arm from the shoulder. By then I’m in eighteen pieces and we’re not even to page 3.

On page 3, they started on my ribs—the costal cartilage is  one tough son of a bitch so they used a hammer and chisel—chrome plated hammer, chrome chisel that sang as Joel held it steady while Bob drove the blade into the rib cage. A spray of blood like a fountain followed by bone chips. Page 4 chewed up. Now they’re through the ribs and they attack my left hip joint.

For this, they bring in an electric chain saw with bright stainless steel handles and steel teeth. Bob cranks it up—the motor whines and page 5 splits open, blood and guts and offal spilling onto the table. They slam the saw into page 6 at the same time and Joel yanks page 6 and the hip drops free. Joel, using a small circular skull saw zips the knee joint, then the ankle bone, then works each of the metatarsals, separating them like soup bones for a witch’s stew and then Bob strips off his surgical gloves and says, I’ve got to take a leak.

Joel rocks back, wipes the rainbow splatters of blood from his chest, lowers his surgical mask and sips his coffee. Page 8 is a bloody hog wallow of severed verbs and sliced nouns like battlefield dead blown to hell by claymore mines and hand grenades.

Across the room, through my one good eye, I watch a woman sitting in a ray of afternoon sun cross her legs. She has purple hair, spiked. Her skin is bright, her knees intact, her hip locked in place with its tendons attached.

Bob returns from the head.

You know what I like about pissing in a public place? He says.

What’s that? Joel says.

I can leave the lid up without taking a ton of shit from my wife.

Bob dons a fresh pair of surgical gloves and a clean mask and he says, What a fucking mess.

They start on my right foot using the circular skull saw. Joel makes a whining incision, my leg jerks as the nerves take the shock, then there’s nothing…no feeling, no pain. Joel hooks the tendons holding my ankle in my tibia and he pulls and page 9 slithers across the table like a dead worm and Bob, chrome mallet in hand, whacks it, splatters its guts out like the guts of a squished slug. Joel covers his coffee cup.

Shit, he says. I think some bone chips and slime flew into my coffee.

Never mind, Bob says. This baby needs major surgery.

Next, they tackle my right knee. The saw sings through the patella, through the cartilage until the knee hangs from a single sinew like a hanged man on a thread and Bob’s face mask is spattered with blood and strings of sticky white goo.

He uses pages 9 and 10 to mop off his shirt, tosses the gory pages into the body bag along with my right foot and my right femur, then, lowering his mask he powers up the chain saw for the final run at my hip and page 11 falls to the table with a thud.

Heavy writing, Joel says.

Not for long, Bob says. I’m cutting all his dialogue.

If that’s dialogue, Joel says, then I’m the fucking czar of Russia.

Joel laughs. With my blurry vision, I see him break down laughing at his own joke.

Well, it’s what passes for dialogue, Bob says. Fucking serial monologues is what it is. He’s been writing with women.

I’m not there. All that’s left of me is page 12 and the blurred vision in my right eye. No fingers. Bones in a pile –carpals, metacarpals, digits, joints, tarsals, metatarsals, phalanges, tendons, two patellae, ribs…

The woman in the ray of sunlight raises her eyes from the paper she’s reading and she smiles just as Bob drives the chisel into my right shoulder severing the cartilage. My shoulder hits the deck.

Not a whole hell of a lot left to him, Joel says.

I’ll take care of that, Bob says.

He hefts the circular skull saw with its shiny circular blade all sleek and slimy with foot blood and ankle blood and rib blood and he lays the saw into my clavicle and it drops hard onto the table as the woman in the ray of sunlight gets up, walks to our table. She says:

Are you writers?

Um huh. Bob says. He peels off a glop of tendon stuck to his wrist watch.

Do you come here every day? The woman says.

Once a week, Joel says. For a ritual slaughter. I’m the Czar of Russia and he’s the Money Man.

Joel points to Bob.

And who is this? The woman says. She points at what’s left of me.

I’d shake, I say, but all I’ve got left is my tongue and one eye and that probably won’t be for long.

Oh, she says. Well, I’m in a group too but our stuff is so much more polished than yours.

Yeah, Bob says.

He picks up the crosscut saw. It’s six feet long and shiny and he sets it against my neck.

This won’t take long, Bob says.

Joel laughs.

Page 12 goes blank.