GARDEN STATE by Rick Moody


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Anomie is raised to the level of a deadly virus in this first novel (winner of Pushcart's Tenth Annual Editors' Book Award) about wasted youth in suburban New Jersey. ""All over Haledon, kids were coming apart."" Kids like punk-rocker Alice, 23 years old, unemployed, and less motivated than ever now that her band has broken up; kids like Lane, who has tried every drug on the menu and is debating when to kill himself, now or later. They all remember their contemporary Mike Maas, who set himself on fire ""next to I-81, in a marsh"": though Mike is ""just a memory,"" he's a memory that won't go away. And most of them still live at home, though resisting their moms' influence; as for fathers, ""well, there were fathers, but there were no dads."" The city (meaning New York) is within reach, but so what? For bass guitarist Scarlett, it was just ""so much disappointment,"" and it freaked Lane out so badly he had to call his mom to come get him. So it goes in this slice-of-life, which has no plot but, rather, a central episode in which Lane slips off the roof at an April Fools' Day party. (He survives, and even rediscovers, tentatively, his appetite for life.) Desolate lives, desolate landscape; but Moody paints with too broad a brush (and adopts too smart-alecky a tone) for his vision to have power. Also, he shortchanges his kids, presenting them as inarticulate zombies without going below the surface to plumb Alice's malevolence (she was deeply implicated in Lane's rooftop tumble and Mike Maas's self-immolation) or Lane's terror (what did happen to him in the city?); and this glib inattentiveness proves fatal.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1992
ISBN: 0316557633
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Pushcart--dist. by Norton