An offbeat story of one man’s downfall and redemption.
In Street’s (Epitaphs, 2017) latest novel, Davis County District Attorney Arthur “Bow” Bowman Carter III is 48 and at the top of his game in the courtroom and in public life. “He was born with a silver teat in his mouth,” Street writes with typical deadpan wit, “or found one very soon thereafter.” He’s confident about his job and confident of his chances as he puts the final preparations in place for a run for Congress. But Street is a deft enough author to dispense with all of this worldly fortune in the course of only a few pages. One of Carter’s high-profile convictions is called into grave doubt by new findings (“if the evidence wasn’t damning, it was certainly purgatorial”), and in a series of swift, almost Shakespearean setbacks, Carter loses everything: his career, his prospective congressional run, his wife and daughter, the respect of his peers—even his livelihood. He takes to drink and quickly disintegrates, eventually waking up in a daze in a trailer in Port Royal, South Carolina, where he falls in with a colorful assortment of eccentric characters and gradually, unevenly begins to reclaim his life. Street writes with wit and energy (the prose remains eminently quotable to the last page), but readers may find the narrative’s frequent semiphilosophical digressions more distracting than entertaining: “As each soul is admitted to the continuum, it is committed to Perdition,” we’re told in a typical passage. “This is not punishment, nor is it a warning to repent. The time for warnings has passed. The time for punishment doesn’t exist, except for the unchecked convolutions of a disorganized mind.” The result is a trippy novel of self and ideas that mostly manages to stay out of its own way.
A loose-jointed modern fable that’s appealingly Ken Kesey–ian.