Consider the apocalyptic writ small. While some novels and stories have taken the idea of a world-ending or world-changing event as a way to use the largest possible canvas, other writers have taken the opportunity to zero in on one specific element of society. Both Laura van den Berg’s Find Me and Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation have embraced this route, which — not unlike some of J.G. Ballard’s work — offers a chilling vision of an imploding society.
David Leo Rice’s A Room in Dodge City, Vol. 2: The Blut Branson Era is the second book in a trilogy about a nameless protagonist, who arrives in Dodge City, a town which is quintessentially American in the way in which it embodies both the realization of the great dream and its contrapasso, having to endure watching a replay of its perversion ad nauseam. A paradox that defines the everyday experience in America today.
There are a lot of things I like about Something Gross. I want to point out some sections in the novel I like and talk about why I like them and maybe what that means in a bigger way, outside of myself and the novel. Maybe what those parts of the novel mean for writing in general too. You know. A review.
I was excited about this book for a lot of reasons. It was a surprise and it was a novel and relatively lengthy. Over 200 pages. I didn’t know what the book was about except Big Bruiser Dope Boy (BBDB) wrote it and I appreciate BBDB as a writer.
The world is built on language. In language. Through language. And ergo, obviously, the novel is built through language. Emily Segal has written a novel, Mercury Retrograde, that is about many things, but is mostly about language, and what happens to humans’ vocabulary when it is placed into a bubble and told to do something new.
There is nothing particularly wild about Jonathan Epstein, the main character in Jeff Schneider’s new book, Therapists Gone Wild. He’s hardly protagonist material: a sheepish, soft-spined licensed clinical social worker with the best intentions who probably has one of those daily motivational quotes calendars on his desk and loves it. This is what makes his gradual descent into madness both painful to watch, and impossible to look away from.
Early in John Brandon’s fourth novel, Ivory Shoals—a spirited remaking of the prodigal-son parable set in the American South during the final days of the Civil War—twelve-year-old Gussie Dwyer has come to collect the savings his recently deceased mother, Lavina, entrusted with her long-time employer, Rye. Rye delays this encounter, leaving the boy to wait awkwardly in the barroom, a foreign space reserved for hardened men and the working women looking to entertain them. Out of economic desperation, Lavina had turned to prostitution to support her family.
I am an actual person in a concrete historical situation. So are you, and that guy? Over there? Yep. Same. Look at us. Just some actual people in a concrete historical situation. Seems obvious, but, really, I mean, is it? When’s the last time you thought about being an actual person in a concrete historical situation? Actual stuff – life stuff – situated in some broader context. Your birth and death and the stuff in between. That’s all it is, and you’re doing it. Thanks for spending some of it reading this introduction with me. Let me tell you something.
A propulsive, literary page-turner about a family beset by early onset Alzheimer’s? If that sounds like an oxymoron then you have not encountered the heart, scalpel, and unassuming genius of Joshua Henkin whose new novel, Morningside Heights is not only a study in craft, but a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.