A Texas essayist goes looking for meaning in all the right places.
The essays in this debut collection by Searcy, who previously published two novels of sci-fi horror (Last Things, 2002, etc.), suggest what might happen if Stephen King somehow morphed into David Foster Wallace. Though there are none of the latter’s signature footnotes, the author’s allusive and elusive writing seeks connections beneath the surface of appearance and the alternatives to conventional wisdom. His mother was an artist, as is his girlfriend, as is his late friend, and their work provides plenty of perspective on the creative impulse, which also permeates these essays. In the opening “The Hudson River School,” a visit to the dental hygienist inspires a visit to her father, a rancher in West Texas, who has been targeting a coyote (or more) that has been attacking his sheep, using a tape of their baby’s cries as a lure. “Out here, you probably need to know a lot more clearly what you’re doing,” writes Searcy. “How to situate yourself. You’ve got your basics here to deal with after all. Your wind, your emptiness, your animals, your house.” Clarity, emptiness, and whatever the basics are remain touchstones throughout these essays, whether the writer is exploring the lunar landscape of Enchanted Rock, touring Turkey in search of Santa Claus, trying to find meaning in his lack of connection with baseball, or rediscovering a piece by his late mother while rummaging through “twenty years of stuff diverted here. Not quite tossed out. You never know.” Searcy also spends plenty of time revisiting childhood experiences never quite resolved, snapshots and notebooks that provide a different perspective on the experience he’s relating, and occasionally discovering, “How cool and dark and clear it is, right here at the heart of things. How clearly things reveal themselves. Who knew?”
Ultimately, meaning and mystery coexist in Searcy’s mind, and his offbeat, exciting writing will resonate with readers for whom “you never know” and “who knew?” might be mantras.