Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Delusionist

There’s something fun about an unreliable narrator whether they’re lying to you or misinformed or just dim about the world. My favorite of this type may be the self-deluded narrator who’s chiefly misinformed or dim about themselves. Over at Ransom Notes, I’m going through a few of my favorite examples of these types. I was inspired to after reading A Very Simple Crime by Grant Jerkins. His protagonist, at least I insist on seeing him that way, is the very twisted Adam Lee. Seems his wife has died unnaturally and he’s been arrested for the crime, but as he tells his lawyer and audience the story he has many opportunities to remind us that he loved her. There are a few levels of twist and red herring and narrative doubling back to this one, so I wrestle with how much to reveal here, but I’ll say Adam’s tone never waivers from sweet and near child-like innocence while leaving plenty of space between the lines where he’s painted some pretty shocking imagery and concepts any semi-conscious reader will pick up on just fine. Other examples I touch on include Frank Mansfield from Charles Willeford’s Cockfighter, Nick Glass from Allan Guthrie’s Slammer, Frankie Avicious from Nate Flexer’s The Disassembled Man, the nameless character moonlighting as Tyler in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club and Wayne Ogden from Scott Phillips’ upcoming The Adjustment.

Ogden of course first appeared in The Walkaway as a really fun and nasty example of psychotic-Americanus and afterward, as a teenager, in some short stories, but The Adjustment shows us Wayne as an adult back from occupied Japan and spectacularly failing to re-enter civilian life. He is not one of us, he’s changing. He is going through a metamorphosis from mere assholishness to full-on psychotic, but he’s a little naïve. He doesn’t see it that way at all. Room has been left for a third novel – Wayne in Japan – that I really hope we get to see someday. In a word it would be - badass.

Wayne’s childhood exploits explored in stories like Sockdolager and The Crow Killers I’m assuming would be included in a book of shorts that Phillips is considering releasing electronically. As the walls fall between writer and reader and the middle men go looking for new gigs, I am beginning to feel the stirrings of excitement for the possibilities of the future and wistful nostalgia for what we almost had in print. Last week Anthony Neil Smith released an e-exclusive novel Choke on Your Lies that I’m wishing I had access to, especially after reading his fantastic shorts Minnesodom (Needle #3) and Granny Pussy (Damn Near Dead 2). Smith’s a writer I admire for packing the genre goods into really challenging pieces and while I hope he reaches a wider audience than print has afforded him and makes some decent money with the Choke, I’m disappointed that I can’t hold it in my hands… or read it.


Neil said...

But Jed! You can! Just download the free Kindle App for PC, and you'll have it right there on the ol' computer. Or Mac. Whatever the hell you use.

Problem solved.

Thanks for saying nice things about me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I just finished A Very Simple Crime too but I was disappointed with it. The change of POV to the nebbishy ADA took all the punch out of what was a good first half.

jedidiah ayres said...

Patti - anybody else after Adam's POV would've been less

Grant said...

Patti's criticism is a valid one. Patrick Anderson said much the same in his Washington Post review - something to the effect that the legal stuff (Leo Hewitt) is never as compelling as the dysfunctional family portrait that starts the book.

That is always a risk when a story shifts POV like that - the reader wants to get back to his/her favorite. So why did I do it? The truth is that I could not exist inside Adam Lee’s head for the duration of the narrative. It was poisoning me. - Grant