A Swift-ian morality tale about a land of “hysteria and half-truths.”
Currie’s (Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, 2013, etc.) fourth and most conventional novel has an epigraph from Erasmus: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” K., our 44-year-old narrator, is a common, honest man in a contemporary America where people are all too ready to twist the truth. K.’s beloved wife, Sarah, died from cancer seven months ago. He isn’t taking it well; in fact, he has become “completely unhinged.” K.’s friend Tony tells him he has turned into “Mr. Roboto...you’re so goddam literal.” K. suffers from a heightened sense of hyperfactuality. He argues with Tony about the wording on a bottle of hand wash and ends up throwing it through Tony’s window. He gets into an argument over what someone’s bumper sticker actually means. At Total Foods, he gets into an argument with a clerk, Claire, about how fruits are incorrectly labeled, but, he tells her, he’s “not dangerous or anything.” He “just needs things to be true....Actual. Clear.” Off to get his usual Grande Americano he sees a young woman in a store being held up. He knocks on the window and gets shot, saving her. To K.’s befuddlement, he’s proclaimed a hero, given an award. A newsman from Fox visits him in the hospital and wants to do a reality TV show with him. America, You Stoopid follows K. and Claire (now his manager) around America. They talk with people about many issues: abortion, gun control, immigration. But the “dominant mode of national discourse”—things are either entirely right or wrong—brings about nasty arguments, and K. becomes a major star. Tomfoolery and shenanigans abound in this wicked indictment of our divided land.
Even though the over-the-top ending sputters into a wild tailspin, Currie’s caustic humor and deadly sarcastic bite win out.