Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: LAND OF THE BLIND by Jess Walter

This is one of those rare books of genre that not only entertained and amused me, it knocked me over.  I reread this over the recent holidays, and my original take on it remains.  Astonishingly well-written, laced with humor and insights. A little known gem of a book. It is a story within a story, a coming of age story within an unconventional murder mystery, a literary whodunit/whydunit/howdunit.
It is, on the surface, a story of the internet bubble and bust and the way it affected the lives of a couple of high school buddies over the course of their lives.  This story is framed by a police procedural run by Detective Caroline Mabry, the protagonist of the author's previous murder mystery, Over Tumbled Graves

But there is a deeper humanistic and compassionate level.  In the second part of In Land Of The Blind, there is what I took to be an interesting riff on Blood Meridian (which is to say, on human nature and war) combined with a riff on Jean Sheperd's "Red Rider Nails the Cleveland Street Kid" which was adapted into the wonderful movie, Christmas Story.  The kid protagonist is bullied and conscripted into a gang and made to fight another everyman, his nerdish and autistic doppelg√§nger named Eli, and both are drawn into a BB gun war. This is one of the best mini-parables of war to be found in a mystery novel, and the writing is consistently keen throughout the novel.

Eli, the protagonist's alter ego, is autistic (long before there was such a diagnosis).  The author makes him a very empathetic character.  After I closed this book, I immediately set about obtaining this award-winning author's entire works, and while nothing else quite measured up to this reading experience, any novel that appears with his name on it is now a must read.  Jess Walter is on my list of authors talented enough to write the Great American Novel of this century.

Do yourself a favor and read this one.

2 comments:

  1. Nice write-up, thanks. This is my favorite Jess Walter book, too. I told him that one time, and he confessed it was his favorite as well. That was a couple of books ago, though.

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  2. Thanks for dropping by. I saw your blog, with its interesting narrative about Jess Walter, Vonnegut, etc. Very nice. You ought to take it up again.

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