A deeply unreliable narrator takes the form to the next level when he foists himself on the owners of a schlocky wedding blog.
Stalker novels are nothing new in the world of thrillers, but posing one as a shrill, fey experiment in comedy may well be a tough sell for sophomore novelist Nichols (Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder, 2010). The poet-turned-novelist deeply indulges his love of the clipped, erratic style of poetry as well as a penchant for the epistolary device, last seen in the letters that make up his debut. Moving into the Internet age has opened up a new vein of satire for Nichols, who makes not-so-subtle jabs at the twin demons of self-promotion and personal privacy. For starters, his unnamed narrator is batshit crazy—not necessarily a bad thing in characters ranging from Patrick Bateman to Tyler Durden—but his lead’s protracted screeds about conspiracy theories and personal slights quickly become wearying. Our guy, trying to track down a beloved ex, MFL (“My First Love”), spends his days trolling the Web looking for pictures of her. That’s when he unfortunately runs across a picture of Charli Vistons, bride-to-be. He quickly breaks into her public blog at Charlico.com and learns of her impending nuptials to Nico Novtalis, brother to the blog moderator, Chris. Naturally, our stalker’s logic isn’t always easy to follow. “The personal is absolutely political, after all,” he practically seethes. “Of course blog comments in general, dear readers, are revolutionary because they allow for point X, which dilates our triangular perception from simple A, B, and C into the pyramidal realms.” And so on, and on, and on as our lunatic host opines that Chris is trying to pluck his brother’s prize. We also get some background in memories of related adolescent hijinks, but whether readers have the stamina to finish the ride is a fair question.
An experimental novel of obsession and violation that makes Nicholson Baker and Mark Leyner look positively banal.