A sprawling satire on contemporary middle-American life.
One would be hard-pressed to find any aspect of Daneagle’s first novel that doesn’t underscore his central theme on the excesses of American living. From the pen-and-ink drawings by illustrator Cocinero, to the â€œSimple Melodies” of songs mentioned in the text then collected in the epilogue, to the two-column newspaper-like setting of the entire narrative, Daneagle drives home the idea that, especially when it comes to the underbelly of American life, the world really is too much with us. Though the strongly ecological and rabidly liberal-minded polemics presented throughout the book may alienate some readers, especially those who fail to appreciate the tone of extended, harshly derogatory passages on women (aka The Penis Dialogues), at the novel’s core sits the interesting story of a dozen inmates incarcerated together in one of the country’s mega-expensive, million-prisoner penitentiaries dubbed â€œTwo Five,” denoting in brief the institution’s zip code. Entire chapters are devoted not only to detailed descriptions of the crimes that landed each of these more or less unsavory men and their keepers in jail, but some protracted histories of preceding generations of that character’s family. In cases such as JosÃ© Lupino, a drug lord of staggering wealth and power, such background provides a rounded context as to why he finds incarceration so intolerable, but with other characters, like bootlegger J.B. Hunt, such tangential personal histories tend to read more like filler. Daneagle excels in exposing the consequences of years of hard living, particularly in backwoods Appalachia, where rampant poverty, racism and sexism borne of poor education and seemingly insurmountable classism manifest themselves in the â€œTwo Five” characters society seeks to isolate and eliminate. If one can outlast the multiple diversionary tales within the main story here, the point’s well taken.
An illuminating cross section of American society.