Gaber (Between Eden and the Open Road, 2012), in his latest novel, offers up a portrait of a lost, disaffected young man.
A man in New York City ambivalently searches for meaning in a series of short vignettes about his misadventures in love, work, friendship and family. The book doesn’t have the arc and structure of a traditional novel, nor do its elliptical, episodic parts seem like discrete short stories. Gaber’s deadpan tone instead straddles the boundary between creative nonfiction and autobiographical fiction. The prose can be quite sad but frequently funny as well, reminiscent of author Tao Lin’s detached self-deprecation and the Thought Catalog website’s unfiltered, monologuelike posts. The narrator possesses a charming self-awareness that makes Gaber’s self-described “damaged, angry, lovable hustler hero” sympathetic in spite of himself. The absurdity of a breakup caused by the narrator’s lifelong habit of falling asleep when being yelled at by a woman, for example, is tempered by the plainspoken vulnerability of the chapter’s final line: “It was the saddest day of my life.” Although the author sometimes struggles to maintain momentum over the course of this brief novel and his prose is much more impressive than the sentimental poems scattered intermittently throughout, his book is never boring—it moves forward quickly, never dwelling too long on any one subject or scene. The writing innovates and surprises throughout, incorporating film scripts, lists and other nontraditional forms, although sometimes with mixed results; occasionally, however, his insights into the existential paralysis so prevalent in contemporary life are startling. Overall, Gaber’s second effort is as fulfilling as it is entertaining. Readers easily exasperated by characters with Peter Pan complexes may find the book a bit grating, but fans of Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson will likely be drawn to this free-wheeling antihero’s exploits and musings.
Often engaging dispatches from the edge of postmodern alienation.