BAD TEETH by Dustin Long


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An American translator listlessly pursues a Tibetan author across four connected narratives in the second novel from Long (Icelander, 2006).

His name is Judas and he’s the default protagonist, the only character to appear in all of the book’s four location-defined sections: Brooklyn, Bloomington, Berkeley and Bakersfield. In his mid-30s, Judas has fled a failed relationship in Berkeley, and here in Brooklyn, at a party for an obscure literary magazine, he sniffs for clues about Jigme Drolma, a Tibetan author rumored to be a hot commodity. What is undeniably hot is SOFA, a protest group begun in Berkeley, which “is about changing the entire fabric of ideaspace.” Peekaboo references to SOFA pepper the novel, including the reveal that its founder, Viv LaRevolution, is Drolma’s half-Chinese son. While in Brooklyn, Judas begins a couple of relationships, evidence that he’s “just as competitive, lustful and petty” as all the other literary types swimming in their small pond. Then he’s off to Bloomington, Ind., to visit the Tibetan Cultural Center, where his host is Adam, a creative writing teacher who has written about SOFA. Next up is Berkeley, where we meet Thomas (Sino-American, Judas’ former roommate) and Selah (Korean-American, Adam’s ex), UC students who steal from their workplaces: bookstore and bakery (more B-words!). Last stop is Bakersfield, where Selah’s current boyfriend, a SOFA activist and drug dealer, plies his trade. This final section is chaotic, involving drugs, cops and a murder, while Judas begins to suspect the much-buzzed-about Drolma of plagiarism. Long lards his dialogue with the language of today (dude, totally, whatever, etc.), which quickly grows tedious. And ultimately, the book’s lack of plot isn’t what’s bothersome, but rather the feebleness of the satire and the accumulation of in-jokes.

Doodling, not art.

Pub Date: March 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-544-26200-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Little A/New Harvest
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2014


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