In Krusoe's latest surreal effort, a collection of oddballs living in (and never leaving) a strange underground apartment called the Burrow grapple with life's—and the afterlife's—mysteries.
The apartment, next to a vacant lot in a town called St. Nils, houses five "twilight souls, caught somewhere between dark and light, knowing and unknowing." There are no windows, leaving one of its tenants, Madeline, puzzled by all the mirrors, which "multiply the dark." She's sleeping with Viktor, a mud bath obsessive who hopes to get out of this place with money he makes online in the stock market. Previously, she was with Raymond, having taken up with him and his worrisome collection of duck decoys after leaving his sad-sack best friend, Jeffery. Completing the group is Heather, a phone sex operator writing a children's book, Ballerina Mouse, whose heroine has a deformed hind foot. Krusoe invokes a terrible cult TV show set in the 1960s featuring farmers, neo-Nazis, and a young woman named Heather—played by an actress who looked a lot like the apartment-dwelling Heather and got killed in a car accident at the exact time Heather of the Burrow said her name. Then there's the Captain, whose fluctuating "Death Quotient" tells him what percentage of him at a given moment is willing to call "the whole thing…over and done." Krusoe (Parsifal, 2012, etc.) can't resist winking at the reader, providing charts to make sure we're keeping the characters straight. But the book is as unsettling as it is funny. In questioning our very existence, it captures the kind of disorientation we experience in that brief interval between dreaming and waking.
From one of our great deadpan absurdists—a new member of the club to which George Saunders, Robert Coover, and Stanley Elkin belong—comes a book of unearthly delights that will have you, too, wondering nervously what that incessant grinding sound is.