Monday, August 5, 2013


Mark Slouka

Norton, 2013

Brewster from the title of the book is a town where the action takes place in the late '60s. Jon Mosher, the narrator, is a lonely teenager with no friends and special interests. The younger brothe rof Jon, Aaron, died as a baby, and now the parents seem to not notice their eldest living son. They do not call Jon by the name, are not interested in his affairs, do not allow him to go into his brother’s room and touched his brother's things, but also they do not show aggression toward the boy, too.

The main character of the book recalls the events of a few years, when Jon began to study in high school and found his friends. About Jon and his friends: Ray, Frank and Karen we will know more along the way. 16-year-old Jon meets with Ray and Frank, it all starts with conversations, long walks, drinking beer at the lake. Jon learns that Ray's father is an ex-cop. Ray's mother ran away, leaving two children, Ray and his younger brother, Gene.

The book starts so far away, the author seemed to spread out his narrative lens, you do not know what it is going on, and it is not exciting, to be honest. Another American town, another company of teenagers. All American small towns are alike, and all the teenagers as well. But as the story unfolds, Slouka finds the correct angle, his narrative lens clear, and the main plot directions thickens.
Then it becomes clear that all will end badly, that there will be victims, and this is where the book grabs you by the throat. After a foggy start every word and every sentence are becoming full of sense. The style of the book is very scratchy and raw, in the manner of American authors as Fante and Selby. Language is very physiological, because of that the book events are even closer to the reader. Slouka is not trying to stick any artificiality, he uses language in its most low-lying level, close to the bone.

The dialogues are written in a colloquial style, with rudeness, but the violence as such is almost taken out of the scope of the book. Violence is so terrible here that the protagonist does not even dare to write about it. There are no descriptions of violence, but you feel it there.

Bare language is perhaps what distinguishes this novel from dozens of others like it. Finale is so powerful that it took my breath away, I do not remember when a book’s end did that to me the last time (Ford’s Canada does not have this powerful a final, although Ford, of course, is better writer). This effect is again due to the style, but the author worked also on the composition, too.

Slouka had written a powerful novel about mistakes and consequences, a novel which is rough, raw, but that grabs you by the throat.

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