If you never read a book by Jonathan Evison then I feel sorry for you and I’m…
A lot of people are going to call this partisan fiction, but they’ll be missing the point. Like it or not, this book says a lot about the American way of life. I keep hearing it referred to as a satire in the realm of Catch-22, but I don’t think that does it justice, either. Fountain is a storyteller first, and a social critic second, which is how he manages to absorb the reader so fully.
After two novels and some short stories, I now number Chaon firmly among my favorite working American novelists (a group that also includes Stewart O’Nan and Jess Walter). What do these writers have in common? Pathos. Amazing characterization. Supreme confidence. A shit-ton of voice.
There’s a ton of humanity in these stories, a ton of heart, a ton of gratitude. They are the antithesis of post-modern coolness, and that in itself is something worthy of celebration. The people who populate these stories are the hardscrabble people of Carver, and early Richard Ford, and Sherman Alexie, but Ray’s treatment is unique and transformative, and yes, graceful, powerful, muscular, and forgiving.
At turns hilarious, unsettling, and improbably sweet, Veselka’s debut is, above all, a highly engaging, and totally unique experience, which will have you re-reading passages and dog-earing pages. But best of all, in the end, Zazen is that rare novel which dares to be hopeful in the face of despair, and succeeds.
I feel like I’m going to talk like a TV kung fu character and say that DS’s prose contains three levels of excellence. There’s the surface brightness, a symphony of thumps, kicks and punches. Then, more interior to that, the subtle matrix of how the guys are relating to each other, and being guys, they are not going to talk about it…so Darin has to find a way to show us the reality. Last, there’s the metaphysical brightness of the text. I was tremendously moved by how Darin played this.