Review of "Harassment Architecture" by Mike Ma

I didn’t know what I was getting into. I saw this book mentioned and vaguely recommended in a poast thread, and decided to check it out. I didn’t realize that the author was the same guy who made the “HEY GUYS GOOD MORNING FROM 2018” video. After doing a very cursory search into it’s background, I have even more respect for it than I had previously.

I highly recommend you read it. It can be read cover-to-cover in only a few hours and it’s one of only a handful of books that have made me laugh out loud on one page, and completely sober me up on the next. If you want the same experience that I had, read it while listening to the Hotline Miami 1-2 soundtrack. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Harassment Architecture is written like a journal. Each chapter is an entry that covers anything from a single paragraph, to entire pages of information. Of all of the epistolary novels I have read, this one definitely takes the number 1 spot, although finding the words to describe why is a surprisingly difficult task.

From a purely literary perspective, it’s horrendous. There are countless spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Throughout the book, it appears that the author accidentally begins writing on a new line mid-sentence, and was too lazy to go back and fix any of them. I can only imagine that the editor was a close friend or something, because he only makes two comments in the entire book, and doesn’t even bother cleaning up some sections. It’s an absolute nightmare.

If you decide to ignore this and focus on the story, you’ll be left scratching your head at how this was even cleared for publishing. It is plagued constantly with an unreliable narrator, and it’s not even a twist. It’s obvious from the very start. Add this to the almost incomprehensible nature of some of the chapters, and I can confidently say that even Napoleon Dynamite has a more coherent plot than this does.

But it’s because of, and not in spite of these qualities that make it stand out. It is the sum of all these terrible parts that make it such a glorious and convincing train wreck. When I started reading, I snapped photos of passages to share with some family members, and ended up stopping because I was finding myself saving pictures of every page. The book is written the same way that my brain thinks, if it was a little more neurotic and sleep deprived. There are several passages that, if held up to my own journal, would look as if one of us had plagiarized the other.

Despite being just as fictitious as other journal-style novels like Dracula, Flowers for Algernon, The Diary of Ann Frank, and Frankenstein, Harassment Architecture never required a suspension of disbelief to get into it. While there are definitely portions that felt like highly exaggerated, or downright made up recounts of stories and daydreams, there are many chapters that I refuse to believe are entirely fictional. They feel too real to be just “part of the story”. On one occasion I stopped reading to verify that this was indeed a satire piece, and that I was not reading some schizo’s manifesto. I know that probably sounds stupid, but I genuinely had no idea what I was reading until I had completed it. Candid, introspective chapters are woven into the overall story, and it creates an effect not seen in any of the other aforementioned books.

It avoids a lot of the pitfalls of other “journal” novels. The protagonist is never explicitly named as far as I can remember, so you naturally tie the identity of the writer to the author himself. Unlike books in a similar vein like The Turner Diaries by William Pierce, the protagonist never feels the need to fill you in on giant autistic chunks of detail to flesh out the world. That isn’t something that you would expect from a real diary. The same can be said with Day of the Rope by Devon Stack, where the constant switching between characters gives it the feel of an edgy tween novel, as opposed to the singular protagonist of Harassment Architecture, who is writing the entire thing from a first-person point of view and never deviates to try and explain what on earth they are rambling about. The worst part is that, despite the protagonist being written as totally irredeemable from an outsider’s point of view, I actually agree with him.

I try and write in a coherent way, and I’ve deleted many drafts for other blogposts before this because I deemed them not worthy of sharing. I do that for 90% of everything I do. I suppose it’s just a perfectionist mindset. After reading this book, I deeply regret deleting those drafts. I probably wouldn’t even bother posting the one you’re reading now if not for the realization that, even if it’s a wet mess of thoughts jumbled together, I’ve been able to get inspiration from things much worse. Maybe after reading it yourself, you’ll feel inclined to publish your own thoughts, regardless of their perceived quality. Or not, but I hope you do. Nobody writes things anymore. Everyone I used to enjoy has either left or died. I don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll just say: TL;DR The book is good. It’s short and sweet. 10/10.