Asher (Shelter, 1986), editor in chief of Vintage Books, offers up a `novel` that may be the tiniest tome to date that wryly ponders (if pondering be a task so briefly doable) the woe that is in living.
In 101 teeny `chapters,` none more than a paragraph and some just a line or two—all accompanied by designer Chip Kidd's witty combinings of nostalgia for and satire of life the way it used to be and at the same time of and for life as known from the comix—Asher follows his nameless but profoundly typical baby boomer from birth to—well, to emptiness, breakdown, and death. The boomer `was born on a Friday`; once cut his finger almost off with his father's razor; once `stole quarters from his mother's purse` (`she screamed at him` and `he wondered if he would go to hell. It felt exciting`); and `from the first day . . . loved school.` College will go okay, bringing with it first sex; while afterward the boomer `got a good job in a large company. He rented a small walk-up apartment. A woman gave him a cat.` Marriage will follow (to the woman who gave him the cat), then a son, promotions at work, a move to the suburbs—and afterward the rest, better discovered by the reader. Let it be said only that amid the riches of an outwardly successful life, and before the close of same, will also occur the drinking of Scotch, the taking of Valium, the seeing of psychiatrists, an emergence from a closet, and, among the least, yet far from least, the therapeutic walking of the dog, this drolly captured by a Tristram Shandy–esque page filled with a confusion of many dog-print and many person-prints.
So tiny a book, so wee its little steps—yet so devastatingly large in its subject, import, and effect. A 20-minute novel that, amazingly, really is one.