Your Personality is What's Holding You Back

A social-media marketing satire centered around a self-help program, a masturbation problem, and a lot of sleeping pills.


    Have you ever read an advertisement and felt like it was written directly to you? Well, what if it was? And if you were told that there's an underground group telling you and those around you what to buy, what to wear, and what to consume?
    Join the fun. The only thing holding you back is your own personality.
    We recommend that you read Gripped with a nice bottled water.


    Jason Donnelly has given the world his first published novel. Try not to be too critical though, as it is a FIRST novel. Like our soul mates, the beauty is in its flaws. The book is a fast and easy read. Above all though, it is a satirical book full of dark humor, emotion, and pure honesty. Gripped is like Office Space on crack…with more masturbation. Marky is a lonely man that lives in a sordid apartment with his cat Spike. After an infomercial speaks directly to him, his life is changed forever. Anonymous delivery men in suits drop off boxes of Blue Rays every week for Marky to watch in order to follow instructions given by “The Program.” The Program sees everything and it is their goal to improve people’s lives. Donnelly holds a mirror up to our culture down to the latest references in music, brands, movies, and television. If your thoughts while reading this book are “is Jason Donnelly spying on me?” don’t panic, this reaction is normal. A major theme of the novel is: Big Brother is always watching you and it’s even easier now with the latest technologies. Another theme of the novel is consumerism and its effects on our personalities. Marky changes his name to Mark and integrates himself into the culture that he denied for so long with the guidance of The Program. He plugs into social media outlets, buys the latest technologies, he networks, and stays up to date with current events and trends. Marky is so good at integrating that he becomes a symbol and masthead. All the while he fears he will be killed for breaking the program’s rules. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe this novel but if I could select a few, they would be: hilarious, multi-layered, and introspective. ~ Daily Revolt,

    Some Thoughts on Jason Donnelly's Forthcoming Novel Gripped Gripped, early draft of a novel by Jason Donnelly. Forthcoming, Perfect Edge Books. Is there a genre for masturbation stories? I’m not sure. I think of a handful of novels with masturbation scenes – Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers, in which the prison narrator likes to think of a certain character whose name sounds like derriere (which is perhaps more masturbatory than masturbation) or the famous scene in Joyce’s Ulysses. There are others (I feel like Naked Lunch must have some bizarre murder/masturbation scene, but maybe I’m projecting). I have to admit, I once started a story with a masturbation scene but edited it out at the advice of others (but then put it back in when it was collected in Naming the Animals, my first fiction collection.) But even though Donnelly’s novel begins with the main character masturbating, the novel isn’t nearly as dark or, strangely enough, dirty as one might think. Okay, maybe it’s that dark, but in not so obvious a way. (He also follows it with a hilarious pop culture joke I won’t spoil, but it made me laugh out loud, which I rarely do when reading.) Donnelly is lampooning American consumerist culture, a culture that is, in itself, a kind of masturbation, so it makes sense that the main character, Marky McCarren, is a masturbation addict. He’s also a slacker, and fairly soon into the novel, unemployed. A mysterious infomercial addresses him personally, and soon he’s enmeshed in a strange new program that promises to change his life for the better by pretty much completely disassembling it. Which doesn’t seem like it would be such a loss. Here’s how the program works: he receives a bunch of Blueray discs (delivered by a man in a suit in the middle of the night…). He’s to watch one each week and do everything it says. If he fails or shirks the assignments or talks about the program to anyone, he’s out. And the implications are that being “out” might be more ominous that it sounds. The assignments become increasingly difficult and specific. The first week’s assignment is to read the newspaper and talk to people about it, among other things, for example. As he works the program, he meets a girl, makes friends, gets a new job, loses weight, and generally seems to be moving towards a much better life. But there is some weirdness. His girlfriend seems to be keeping secrets from him about her comings and goings. Some people seem to have dropped out of the program and met with some pretty bad ends. And the people in the program seem to be frighteningly powerful, since they catch Mark every time he slips, even when he wasn’t necessarily aware he was slipping. They also suggest all sorts of products he should use (such as which papers to subscribe to in the beginning) and then, when he goes to, say, subscribe to the paper, they’ve already started his subscription, have his credit card number, etc. But Mark isn’t really that concerned, because he spent much of his time, previously, masturbating. And now he’s got a great job as a DJ (so what if he has to spend much of his time advertising products on air) a beautiful girlfriend (who may be a spy for the program) and he’s happier than he’s ever been (and also kind of afraid the program people might kill him). He’s also addicted to sleeping pills and is pretty sure his cat is talking to him. Gradually, the story shifts into something like horror as Mark becomes consumed with the program – his every thought of it, reminiscent of the ever-present nature of advertising in Delillo’s White Noise, or the gradual break from reality in Ellis’ American Psycho. Donnelly is certainly displaying some chops as a writer. Donnelly’s prose is spare and clear. He avoids heavy-handedness with his message by lacing the novel with humor and verve. But his message is certainly clear. And did I mention that he made me laugh on the first page? How often does that happen? Even though I read an early draft (honestly, I couldn't tell) this is clearly going to be a damned fine book. ~ Murder Your Darlings,

    “I came on my cat today, again.” Thus begins Jason Donnelly’s tightly wound satire Gripped: Your Personality Is What’s Holding You Back. This slightly alarming opening salvo is followed quickly by, “On. It’s not like I used the cat.” Phew, for a minute there, right? Wrong! There is no relenting here. This book comes at you with the momentum of a diabetic elephant strapped to a grand piano tumbling down a staircase that’s greased with butter. Oh, the ivories. Seriously, this book gets you laughing from the first page. Even on occasion when it lets up on the funny to give you something meatier to consider, it never fails to keep the reader glued to the page. Gripped finds resonance easily by picking apart our advertising-saturated, social media-addicted, consumer-led modern lifestyle. This is not uncharted terrain, obviously. (Watch Bob the Builder. I mean, really watch it.) But it’s something anyone who’s ever worked a job they hate or been sucked into online life can relate to. What makes Gripped stand out and be so compelling is the voice Donnelly brings to the party. Namely the voice of Marky, our narrator. Marky is the gentleman who begins the novel by yet again accidently ejaculating on his feline companion Spike. He is your typical office drone, likeable underachiever, single guy living in America. He’s also quite droll and full of wry observations like: “Maybe the life of a cat involves nothing but wondering when food comes and if they will ever have sex with another cat. From here, I can see the positive and negative to both sides.” But Donnelly knows how to write him with enough heart and detached longing that Marky never becomes too smug or inhumanely clever that he’s merely a caricature or a cartoon character. He’s a real guy with real problems, and he happens at times to be quick with the quips. But Snarko Marx he is not, thankfully. HarpoMarx At the start Marky is aimlessly lost in an everyday rut of waking up, wacking off, and wringing his hands at work. Through a series of highly suspicious circumstances he escapes cubicle purgatory and finds himself without work and/or purpose. This all changes when he is approached by a bizarre, seemingly clandestine self-help program called, well, The Program. Once Marky gets with The Program (get it, oh, never mind) the novel shifts gears from an Office Space-style workplace comedy into a nearly Pynchonian absurdist conspiracy romp. The first change this hermetic organization makes with Marky is forcing him to go by “Mark” from then on. They also tell him what to do, what to read, what to watch, what to buy, what to wear, and even what to eat. And it all seems to work. Mark even meets a woman named Emily (this threatens to make his wackoff napkin cat jealous) thanks to his newfound outgoing nature (due to the instructions of The Program), and he and Emily begin dating. But Emily has her own secrets and Mark can’t help but wonder what she’s hiding from him. As Mark works his way through The Program and gets deeper enmeshed in its machinations, his and Emily’s relationship also becomes frayed and at times batshit weird. The way Donnelly handles the increasingly dangerous world of The Program and the quiet, painfully funny and at times just painful disintegration of Emily and Mark’s relationship makes me think it has a touch of the Coen Brothers‘ best work in it. It’s reminiscent of The Coens’ distant, slightly off approach to humor and the way they heighten the ludicrousness of life’s complexity in a way which can make you chuckle and ache at the same scene. Donnelly has the same spirit in this work when he covers the meaninglessness of human suffering and the failure of people to properly communicate. It informs the damaged grace of lines like: “I guess that’s what a relationship is, believing each other, even when it doesn’t seem like a good idea.” Which is the real trick of this novel; it delivers a staggering amount of existential crisis and cautionary tale righteousness without ever losing its zip and dark sense of comedy. Equally as impressive is that Mark/Marky doesn’t become an unlikable-heart-of-darkness, Bret-Easton-Ellis-stock-character type as is wont to happen in these sort of stories. Instead, Donnelly keeps Mark interesting and multifaceted as the character works his way up through The Program while simultaneously looking for a way to bring the damn thing down. Donnelly manages this and never resorts to making Mark just as pitch black as the world he lives in. We still root for Mark, even when his own ignorance and arrogance are what keep him a cog in some unfathomably wide-reaching, humanity-stomping machine. After all, that’s something we can all relate to. ~ DigBoston,

    "Jason Donnelly’s words slap you around like a horny Grizzly bear." - Scott C. Rogers, Publisher at Black Coffee Press ~ Scott C. Rogers

    "Part cautionary tale, part satire, and always dysfunctional, Gripped is a hilarious and disturbing story of angst, delusion and the basic human desire to connect. If Kurt Vonnegut and Sarah Silverman had a literary offspring, it might look something like this." ~ Richard Thomas, author of Staring Into the Abyss

    “Gripped holds a mirror up to America’s narcissistic social media self-obsession. In our modern culture of ME ME ME, Donnelly dances on the line of comedic grace and brutal honesty to show how ugly personal growth can be.” ~ Michael Paul Gonzalez, author of Angel Falls

    "Donnelly is lampooning American consumerist culture, a culture that is, in itself, a kind of masturbation, so it makes sense that the main character is a masturbation addict. With prose that is spare and clear, he avoids heavy-handedness with his message by lacing the novel with humor and verve." ~ CL Bledsoe, author of Man of Clay and The Saviors

    "Donnelly proves he is a true artisan of literature, fashioning from man’s insecurities a puzzle box of a story where the dark underbelly of life is explored, and the pursuit of happiness is a road tarred with absurdity and wit." ~ Craig Wallwork, author of The Sound of Loneliness.

    The powers of consumerism and masturbation compel you! Gripped is the new slacker novel for the rebelling automaton in us all. Funny, fast, and slyly unconventional, Jason Donnelly must be stopped before it's too late. ~ Paul Tremblay,

    "Again, a sock gets punished for her beauty..." Just finished Gripped by Jason Donnelly, a dark tale of control, of Mark McCarren, that's two C's and two R's... and an 8 week program. It is funny while having a malevolent darkness through it. ~ Jonny Gibbings,

    jason donnelly
    jason donnelly He writes words.
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