A cerebral drifter makes sense out of the madness in his life in this debut novel.
Robert Robillard, a 23-year-old self-styled artist whose mind moves a mile a minute, is considering suicide but decides to just leave Los Angeles instead. He begins a metaphysical journey around the American Southwest, pondering such heady topics as life, death, morality, and existence while experimenting with a few trespasses against the laws of God and humanity. He gets caught stealing and is forced to murder his way out of the situation, only to be filled with intense remorse and fear over the deaths of the two people he’s killed: “I was now a murderer and it would forever weigh and sit and hang over who I was and who I was to be.” Robillard’s ruminations on the nature of freedom and expression—which were previously largely philosophical exercises—take on a new urgency as he seeks to escape punishment for his crimes and settle his affairs before fleeing to Montreal to live under a new identity. To do so, he’ll have to make peace with the person his actions have forced him to become—and escape the vengeance of the father of his victims. Robillard narrates the book in an ellipses-laden, Joycean stream-of-consciousness style that Hunter calls Chaos Riddle Prose: “Shoe to killer in Connecticut … with Wet Fingers Worth of Worthiness … palms to sheiks … forehead feigned the Fool! … Touch do not! … Orion the Ore my Marina the Music! … The Music of the Spheres!” It’s a bit hard to follow, as Robillard leaps from literary reference to pun to onomatopoeic description of something happening right in front of him. Hunter’s obvious debt to various modernists feels more than a bit mannered now that Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a hundred years old. That said, there is something inherently compelling about a book that forces the reader to experience it on its own terms, and this is one such work. Hunter has created a surreally inviting wasteland in which to stage this morality play.
A captivating postmodern murder story.