Tuesday, March 24, 2009

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

This is really a magnificent first novel. From the opening scenes, the lives Meyer has constructed hover on a knife's edge of disaster. Poor choices and bad decisions land his characters in nasty situations. Readers have a sense of the big picture only because of viewpoint shifts, but the author reveals his secrets slowly. It is with a sense of impending doom that we watch the story unfold to what we fully expect will be its dreadful conclusion.

This novel did not get nearly the attention it deserved when it was published in February this year. If I have any complaints at all it is merely that it contained more words than it needed. The characters are drawn with sensitivity and depth and the scenes have added details that crank the readers' sense of foreboding to high.

It is said that men don't read novels. If all novels were as good as this one, I think we'd see a lot more men among the converted. This should appeal to those lovers of the Palahniuk oeuvre, though I hate to limit his appeal. It is a man's novel like Black Flies (Shannon Burke, 2008) or The Dog Fighter (Bojanowski, 2005) are men's novels. They are firmly from a man's point of view, and internal, if not introspective.

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