A Reader’s Guide to a Wacky Post-Modernist Novel

April 20, 2008 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

“She went to see my grandma…my other grandma,” he said. “I have another grandma?” How to describe the way Christian said this? How to describe a five-year-old boy who finds out that he has two sets of grandparents and not just one? How to describe a boy who discovers that his father has for years and years lied about his own parents’ being dead? And how to describe a father who doesn’t think that, in killing off his parents, he has killed his children’s grandparents in the bargain?

It’s like Brock Clarke had a dream about a guy who burned down the Emily Dickinson house, went to jail, and had a lot of things happen that he can’t make sense of. Following the plot is like being stuck in a dream of your own, with only a vague idea of how the ideas connect and how you got where you are.

The best part of this book is the main character, Sam Pulsifer. Sam is the most bumbling protagonist I’ve seen in quite a while, who gets himself into the weirdest situations possible but in such a fundamentally real way that it seems almost plausible.

That is to say, Sam himself is real (contrary to what another character will say somewhere in the middle), but his world is about as surreal as it gets. Bond analysts who write novels about other people’s lives? The son of the people he killed shows up and steals his wife? Someone starts copy-catting his Emily Dickinson bonfire? Bizzare.

But unlike in Invisible Monsters, I think the characters and the motivations are realistic, and Sam’s bewilderment at the events of the novel just help solidify that. He doesn’t know how the wife-stealing happened, he’s not even sure how he got his wife to marry him in the first place, so the feelings of the reader are confirmed by that of the protagonist himself.

Brock Clarke is headed for something amazing; this book is good, but not his masterpiece. I think even he would admit that this novel is better than his last one, Ordinary White Boy — in fact, Clarke has his protagonist poke fun at that book in the middle of this one. Though he’s not quite there yet, look out when he makes it, because he’s going to be one of the best post-modern novelists out there.


Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction.

Silly Rabbit, books are for kids! Sharp Teeth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Connect with LT

literarytransgressions (Gmail)

@LitTransgressor (Twitter)

LT RSS feed (Subscribe)

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 134 other followers


LT Archives

In accordance with FTC regulations…

...we must disclose that we are independent bloggers with no ties to authors, publishers, or advertisers. We are not given books or monetary compensation in return for favorable reviews or publicity.

Where we have received advance or complementary copies of books, it will be noted in the body of the entry, and will not affect our review or opinions in the slightest.

%d bloggers like this: