By Victor Lavalle
(Spiegel & Grau, Hardcover, 9780385527989, 384pp.)
Publication Date: August 11, 2009
List Price: $25.00*
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A fiendishly imaginative comic novel about doubt, faith, and the monsters we carry within us.
Ricky Rice was as good as invisible: a middling hustler, recovering dope fiend, and traumatized suicide cult survivor running out the string of his life as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, New York. Until one day a letter appears, summoning him to the frozen woods of Vermont. There, Ricky is inducted into a band of paranormal investigators comprised of former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point in their wasted lives heard The Voice: a mysterious murmur on the wind, a disembodied shout, or a whisper in an empty room that may or may not be from God.
Evoking the disorienting wonder of writers like Haruki Murakami and Kevin Brockmeier, but driven by Victor LaValle’s perfectly pitched comic sensibility Big Machine is a mind-rattling literary adventure about sex, race, and the eternal struggle between faith and doubt.
Victor LaValle is the author of the short-story collection Slapboxing with Jesus and the novel The Ecstatic, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
These are the opening elements of Victor Lavalle's new novel, Big Machine. The protagonist has a problem, but what's a man got to worry about if he's mopping floors for Trailways in Utica, New York? Guest host Jacki Lyden talks to LaValle, who some say writes like Thomas Pynchon, others like Ralph Ellison. More at NPR.org
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Far from a standard dry examination of doubt and faith, Lavalle's allegorical approach is sweeping and swashbuckling. Big Machine takes us from Ricky's idyllic childhood -- sweet as saccharine, with a black tar of burn -- to his romantic nadir, dying in a puddle of piss and shit in the basement of a house owned by a man named Murder.