THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL SINKS TO THE BOTTOM OF THE RIVER | Alan Semrow
⇒This is a funny story about misery. Misery is like that; it can be funny. Not necessarily ha-ha funny, but I-recognize-the-absurdity-of-my-life funny. Maybe absurd is the word I want, not funny.
This story, “The Next Great American Novel…” is sad and desperate and absurd and lonely–so much of life captured in a tiny two-page flash piece. The story is very moving–in the same way that watching someone carrying two many groceries fall on their ass and smash their eggs all over the ground is moving. Its a tragicomic story.
This story is told in the first person. A man is married to a woman named Denise, who’s a total bitch. Here’s what Denise says:
“I thank God for this mojito. This mojito is the reason why we are still married.”
The guy, the narrator of the story, is really unhappy and his wife is a total bitch. The guy is probably gay or at least bi; he fantasizes about other men fucking his wife, and we don’t get the sense that his fantasies center around the wife, who as we’ve just established is a total bitch and not the type of person that a guy, gay or straight, would have amorous thoughts toward.
The guy, he works a dead-end job and pays the bills for his thankless wife and he masturbates in a frustrated manner, more than once, and everything is just so bleak and awful.
Am I ruining the story for you? I hope not. You should read it, it’s very well-written.
But so the guy, the narrator, is also a recovering alcoholic (we infer) and he mentions at one point that he doesn’t smoke anymore because that leads to “other things” (drinking, we surmise), so he’s basically a dry drunk, his life gotten-together and a total wreck at the same time.
This piece is an example of an emerging genre of literature that I’ve been observing of late. The genre is sort of an answer to the addiction-lit scene that’s exploded in the wake of such stories as Trainspotting and Dry and A Million Little Pieces and countless other addiction narratives. This story seems to be a part of the emerging “recovery lit” movement about protagonists who used to drink or use drugs or do other things in excess–but don’t anymore. And that’s so much more interesting than a drunk drinking or a junky junky-ing. Here we see the basic dilemma of human existence, all substances stripped away–just an individual versus life. And it’s a really interesting thing to explore, this post-addiction condition.
As the reader discovers, this protagonist’s life sucks, and no amount of mojitos will cure this condition. This is a very complex, tragic condition. It’s also funny, as I said at the beginning. Funny and absurd and sad.