"Surreal, poetic and unforgettable: a truly original voice."– Kirkus Reviews
In this one-of-a-kind novel, a South Florida man living with hallucinations falls in love and meets danger along the way.
Aubrey Shallcross, 42, “was a respectable businessman in his small town and had learned how to appear normal since grade school, even though he…saw things other people did not”—such as Triple Suiter, a 3-inch-tall, three-piece-suited man who lives in Aubrey’s left armpit. Independently wealthy after selling his car dealership (friends dub him the Anti-Chrysler), Aubrey enjoys hanging out at the Blue Goose and eating conch fritters with old buddies like Punky and The Junior. Over the course of this unique debut novel, he sees some friends die, falls in love, surfs, participates in a cattle roundup, learns the art and discipline of dressage, and undergoes a fearful attack by his girlfriend’s palindrome-obsessed ex-husband. But no plot summary can convey the surreal flavor of Aubrey’s mind and the characters (called “slippers”) who manifest themselves to him. Besides Triple Suiter, a kind of guardian angel, there’s “the tiny Amper Sand, who lived in Trip’s sternum and didn’t speak. To communicate, Amper Sand typed backward letters on Trip’s chest.” The sinister Slim Hand, “rogue slipper, a bad passenger,” always seems to be trying to cram something bad down Aubrey’s throat. Head Wound is “a burlesque overdraft of an abnormal.” In this word-drunk, thickly allusive and poetic novel, characters speak in an at-first confusing mélange of shared jokes and colorful imagery: “Straight over the four-way’s the road to stag-damn-nation….The Head Wound turns left with the angel on that crosspiece, doesn’t he? For the gorgeous left pearls. Finished.” Porter gradually illuminates the significance of these references. Though first-person accounts of schizophrenia usually convey its terror and loneliness, Aubrey’s experience is seldom frightening. His hallucinations are usually creative, helpful, even joyful, and Triple Suiter is touchingly solicitous of him. However bizarre Aubrey’s thought processes might be to outsiders, his inner world is artistically coherent.
Surreal, poetic and unforgettable: a truly original voice.
Porter’s prequel to Shallcross (2015) explores the first 42 years of a South Florida man living with hallucinations.
Although the author says in a foreword that his two books may be read in any order, readers of the first might have been glad to have this one to guide them through protagonist Aubrey Shallcross’ allusive, surreal, and word-drunk world. In first- and third-person narration, Porter tells the story of Aubrey’s early years, beginning with his upbringing in Stuart, Florida. After he’s born in 1944, he seems to live a comfortable life. He goes to school and graduates from college, marries, works in and later takes over his father’s Chrysler dealership, rides in rodeos, goes surfing, takes drugs, plays in a rock band, builds a house, and develops a circle of close friends called the Blue Goose bunch after their favorite bar. Everyone knows that Aubrey talks to himself, but few know about his “drifties” (extended fantasies) or his “slippers,” hallucinatory figures whom he can speak with and sometimes see. One of the latter is Triple Suiter, nicknamed “Trip,” who’s three inches tall and originates in a mole on Aubrey’s skin. The book shows how Aubrey’s relationship with his “slippers” develops; he’s shaken at first, but then Trip becomes a kind of guardian angel, helping him through crises of loneliness, guilt, and fear. Porter also devotes several chapters to Aubrey’s friends, giving them back stories and showing how they develop the tight bonds and rich patois seen in Shallcross; they also effectively display the author’s gifts for characterization and dialogue. Porter has a fine sense of the sublime, and even when he describes horrors, such as the Vietnam War or the actions of a serial murderer, he always offers readers something more complicated than mere repulsion. As with the previous book, the most impressive thing about Aubrey’s hallucinatory world isn’t its strangeness but how it all fits together, poetically, as a creative response to suffering. For example, Triple Suiter gets his name because Aubrey’s much-loved father always wore a three-piece suit to Mass; the suit is an image of love, protection, and certainty.
Another beautifully original, striking, and poetic novel.