Cover Image: Conception

Conception

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Member Reviews

In his brilliantly written debut, Özgür Uyanik introduces us to this unnamed struggling artist, trying to make it in the high-value conceptual art market. He’s a lost soul: uprooted from his native Turkey at a young age and transplanted into London, survivor of his twin brother and his parents terrible divorce (and mutual hatred) and unable or unwilling to deal with layers of trauma. Torn between a supporting and loving (though alcoholic and snobbish) mom and a disappointment father who would have liked his son to follow a more gender-conforming path. He’s bisexual and an artist, not what his wealthy father expected of his sole heir. Did I mention he’s a sociopath?

Uyanik, with a background in cinema and certain life events similar to our protagonist, brilliance is in writing such a hilarious satire of artists, high class and his native homeland. His protagonist is a horrible human being on a crazy quest, and yet he is not unlikable; one even gets to feel sympathy for his pain and struggle, his self-absorbness and out-of-this-world ego coupled with self-hate and trauma makes him a really raw and entertaining narrator. But without the reader noticing, his evil is slowly snowballing out of control. It is an absolute masterpiece I can’t recommend enough.
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An acerbic, struggling artist in his 40s decides to save his career by concocting an idea of auto-cannibalism followed by another equally bizarre act of preserving the resulting excreta as a mural and selling it as a piece of artwork a la the work of the Italian artist Piero Manzoni in the 1960s. Uyanik's nameless first person narrator is at times hard to understand until you realise he's also a sociopath with little disregard to the lives of other people around him. An anti-hero, he stomps over people's feelings and at times their lives, struggles to straddle his relationships with his understanding mother and baffled father. For all his flaws, he is never not entertaining. A heady unputdownable mix of social commentary in prose dripping with delicious irony and spiteful malice, Uyanik's book is a treat to read. 

PS: I want to thank Fairlight Books for providing a formatted and easily readable book, (a fact ignored by many publishers.)
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Bizarre is an understatement for Uyanik's latest novel, Conception. The narrator, a narcissist and sociopath makes observations with wry humour that is outrageously rude and obnoxious to the point where he comes out as insufferable and unreliable. He is an artist with shrewd opinions and is trying to keep himself afloat in a cut-throat environment. As he understands his need for attention and his growing ambition, he devises a gory, out of the world plan which will either take him to the stars or be the end of his career.

Uyanik doesn't name this protagonist, maybe because he wants to give us some kind of power over this self-pompous narrator who wants to control everything around him. He is witty with sharp eyes and a sharper tongue. His art is a manifestation of his broken family and part trauma that has a firm grip on his soul.

'Conception' is packed with an energy that in uncanny and can only be understood if you read the book in bite-size pieces. The sentences are long and thoughts are scattered all over the place. Our narrator, with his musings, doesn't make this an easy read. But his plan (the actual show stopper), that is what makes this a worthwhile read.
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This was an ok read about an artist that is facing the difficult choice of having to re-invent themself.  The choice of having his next work be a work of self-violation shows the desperate state of the narrator's situation.
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It is finally here! Publication day for this fine piece of fiction.

In Conception, we find ourselves head on with the first person narration of a sociopath artist whose career is at stake due to a plateau in his creative process.
We follow his struggles with identity; born in Istanbul, he was raised in London from a young age.  He finds himself in between the two places but he doesn't know where he belongs.
On top of that, we see the family clashes up close. Counting on a supportive mother, he finds himself seeking the approval of a strict father who pushes him to leave art in order to make a life for himself.
He is always trying to brainstorm new ideas to prove his worth to his father through his art.
That is when he comes with a shocking, invasive and outreageous idea to make his art emerge from its ashes. Will his conceptual art live on?
It is a dark piece of fiction. There is a trigger warning including sexual assault and some violence.
The main character is hard to like. He is arrogant, narcissistic, extravagant and over the top, even more so as we discover more traits about his personality.
However, I was gripped and curious from the very begginning. He made me feel intrigued. What will he do next? Will he finally follow through with what he has made up his mind to do? 
I would recommend giving it a try for yourself. It is not a read for everyone. In my opinion, it is worth the read because the writing is really good and if you are hooked you will read on and on.
It was a 4 stars read for me.
I wanted to take some time to thanks Bradley, who kindly sent me my ARC and everyone else at Fairlight Books.
Happy reading!
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DNF @ 40%

I really need to stop being lured in by books about contemporary art and, worse, about eccentric and insufferable (usually male) artists. Because they usually don’t end well for me, as a reader. Similarly, it is hard to put up with books that dangerously toe the line between satire and the perpetuation of classicist (in this case) or whatever other -ist that may apply. “Conception” is a book that is guilty of both at the same time and I have recently decided that there is too little time to put up with books that frustrate me.

Uyanik’s protagonist is a nightmare, to put it mildly. I suspect that was the intention but, as I said, there is too narrow a grey zone before all the snobbish asides about fancy dinners and eccentric personal habits make one wish the character were alive so that you could strangle them with your own hands. The protagonist is everything that contemporary culture believes a hip contemporary artist is and the fact that Uyanik draws on this stereotype and builds on it — again, for what reason I am unsure, whether deliberately feeding the hunger some readers have for this kind of glamour and drama or genuinely trying to make a larger statement — is what upset me the most, because that is what a lot of people now think it means to be an artist or to study art.

Thankfully the protagonist’s genius idea for an edgy project turned out to be less gruesome than I expected, as per one another reviewer’s trigger warning, however it was still pretty disturbing, especially the scene at Salvatore’s where Uyanik clearly enjoyed writing that detailed and drawn-out description, the only moment when I felt a kinship with the awful protagonist in our mutual queasiness. Things could easily have gotten worse during the remaining 60% of the book; I have no doubt of that. However, I was too bored and angered, in equal measure, that books like “Conception” are still being written today to endure more of it. I was ready to drop it at 30% but decided to persevere until at least the big reveal of what it is that the artist comes up with that proves to be “too far.” Kudos to Uyanik on the prose style, which is light and fast and the only redeeming quality of the book, but it is difficult to keep reading when one fundamentally disagrees with everything happening in a book and cannot stand the protagonist.
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Rating - 4.25 out of 5 stars

Conception by Özgür Uyanık is a story about an average but an ambitious artist who is trying to make a name for himself in the world of art but his passion for art is affecting his career financially. He is considering working in advertising to survive but with his mother’s constant encouragement to not fall into the trap of the conventional world, he decides to do something unimaginably outrageous to shake the art world.

Narrated by an unnamed and unreliable protagonist, conception is a story about what art is and how differently it is perceived by everyone. Our narrator is a narcissist and a sociopath, and he has told this story with minute observations and dark humor in a way that I was surprised at how someone could be so self-absorbed and pretentious that he fails to see the truth. He just wants recognition, no matter the price.

I think his constant struggle with finding his identity, personally and professionally, his fathers’ avoidance and his mothers’ obsession had a lot to do with his personality and it was riveting to read the story with his perspective. We also get to see how difficult it is to make a name for yourself in the art world and to get your art out to the world.

I don’t want to spoil it for you but I was shocked when our protagonist revealed his next groundbreaking work of art. I mean the details thereafter were so visual and gruesome, to begin with, that I had to take a minute to contemplate what was happening and I never ever thought that I would read something like it. The book definitely has a gripping storyline with beautiful writing, I had to use the dictionary in almost every other page but it was an absolutely engaging and thought-provoking piece of work.

Trigger Warnings - Gore, Self-harm, and abuse
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I’m judging a 2020 fiction contest. It’d be generous to call what I’m doing upon my first cursory glance—reading. I also don’t take this task lightly. As a fellow writer and lover of words and books, I took this position—in hopes of being a good literary citizen. My heart aches for all the writers who have a debut at this time. What I can share now is the thing that held my attention and got this book from the perspective pile into the read further pile. 

I feel this sentence captures the attention to detail, the tone, and irony of the novel:

Mother’s micro-expressions of disdain for the words ‘job’ and ‘advertising’ are concealed momentarily behind the lip of her bone china teacup.
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Should he follow his calling or do something that pays the rent? Our main character doesn’t waver and fully pursues art to the pleasure of his mom who tells him to be hugely ambitious and the displeasure of his dad who tells him not to bother because he’ll never make it.

Conception deals with the question of what art is and what it means to be a person – artist – that pursues art. Where does ethics come in? With the main character, we explore Istanbul and London. He is stuck between two worlds and doesn’t fully belong to either east or west because he was taken from his place of birth (Turkey) and dropped in a foreign country (England) at a young age. He has a very sarcastic worldview that is not necessarily unrealistic.

You get to know the main character very well – both his strengths and flaws, despite not knowing his name. I like the train of thought leading to the moment of conception of his next artwork (the evil milk!). His thoughts are hilarious at times (in a morbid way), especially the analogies he comes up with, even though they are often quite offensive.

Özgür Uyanık uses a flowery language: if it can be said in many words, why use short sentences? The main character’s thoughts show his self-mockery and criticism, his sadism but also his ambition and spirit. At times it feels like a rant because nearly every single sentence contains a judgment of himself, other people, or historical events.

The writing style is not for everyone; the sentences are often long and demand your full attention if you want to follow the train of thought and understand the references. It is energy consuming, but also more rewarding as the fun is in the connections the main character makes in his mind.

Conception is a thought-provoking and interesting read. All along I was curious about the steps the main character would take next to realize his ambitions. I felt supportive of him, in a slightly disapproving way. He challenges society – both ethics and cultural norms – and shows great resilience and drive to bring his conception to life.

As for your thoughts on the book, to quote the main character: “Your mind will submit to the spectacle of my utter conviction that what I have produced demands nothing less than your unflinching gaze of admiration or, failing that, repulsion.”
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Conception is about an awful man who believes he is a great artist. He has been deeply spoilt and indulged by his mother, and treated disdainfully by his father. He revels in causing offence, and lacks self-awareness about when he has gone too far. The artist has such entitlement, such delusions of grandeur that he believes success to be a given. As if he wasn't dreadful enough, he constantly self-medicates with drugs and alcohol. In every scene, he leaves a trail of destruction behind. 
In order to break through as a major artist, he thinks of an idea so yucky, so much of a slow-motion car crash that it cannot be ignored. What our anti-hero cannot realise is that his whole life is a car crash of awfulness. Perhaps his most terrible crime is that he has no talent, and that he is deeply boring. Although I enjoyed the ride, I felt like taking a cleansing bath afterwards. Three stars.
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Conception was a very different and interesting read. I thought the idea worked well, and the story kept me guessing at every turn as I wondered exactly how things would pan out for the narrator and his eccentric venture. The story flowed nicely and the prose was quick and easy reading, despite the subject matter. This is probably not a story for the fainthearted; it certainly won't appeal to everyone. But I found it deeply engaging, probably because I like characters who are a darker and stranger and less the matinee-hero type. It's certainly a thought-provoking work, so I recommend it to readers who like their humour on the blacker side.
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An artist, also a sociopath, finds that his creative career is beginning to wane so he begins to brainstorm an idea that is sure to put his art career back on track.

Blurb: With his mother's encouragement, he decides upon his next work of art: an act of self-violation so outrageous, so horrific, the art world will be forced to take notice. But will it be enough to raise him to the ranks of the elite?

Oh my, what a plan our unnamed narrator has. That blurb alone was enough to reel me into this one because I just love odd stories and as strange as it may sound I also love being in the head of a sociopath, fictionally speaking. Our odd narrator definitely did not disappoint as I found myself giggling at some of his observations. However, he is a long-winded fellow who often went off on tangents that left me with my eyes glazed over. For a book at under 300 pages this seemed to take me a long time to read.

The writing is superb and I am glad to have read this but I'm not sure who I would comfortably recommend this to. If you're like me and you just have to know what this act of self-violation is then give it a try but if that thought alone makes your stomach turn then skip this one for sure! 3.5 stars!

Thank you to NetGalley and Fairlight Books for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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"Nevertheless, I strongly suspect that I might have been happier lolling through existence like an overfed cat slinking from one life event to the next if I had been without her guidance and constant affirmations during my formative years."

Full of cynical remarks on life and art, Uyanık's novel is contemporary and timely.
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