KNOTTY, KNOTTY, KNOTTY
(Black Mountain Press, 2014)
In this lingual trifecta of kinetic rhythm, acoustic precision and stylistic singularity, Joshua Kornreich lures us into the tumultuous psyche of a cape-wearing, orally-obsessed philanderer whose mouth and heart ache for meaning in a life marred by both maternal absence and fraternal suicide. With a narrative that bobs and weaves between past and present, vaudeville and violence, triumph and trauma, Kornreich’s unnamed protagonist deploys a darkly comedic arsenal of repeated tropes and turns of phrase to candidly reveal the deluge of idiosyncrasies that have plagued his life, as well as the eccentric characters and everyday objects that have both inhabited and consumed it: namely, an "avant-garde" drum-playing brother; a dysfunctional, ticket-scalping father; a sensual, overbearing nanny; a fatherless, deaf-mute gal pal; a scrambled-up analog cable box; a vibrating "metal comb;" a shadowing dog; an omniscient man in black; and, last but certainly not least, a cunnilingus-crazed missus. The sum of these revelations is a profound portrayal of a man struggling to descramble a scrambled-up universe in which the haves are those with Channel 1 and the have-nots are those without it. With this warped black-and-white view of the world, a world in which patience is a virtue and intimacy a burden, the orally- and aurally-swamped antihero discovers that the only sensible way to go about living is to persevere and make his mark.
THE BOY WHO KILLED CATERPILLARS
(Marick Press, 2007; Dzanc Books, 2013)
In a language all his own, a language driven by stutterance and repetition, Joshua Kornreich evokes and seduces the reader into a boyhood mythography where things are not what they always seem to be. At the center of this world stands Kornreich's boy, a hypersensitive kid whose eyes and ears are struggling to make sense of a world fissured by his parents' marital unrest and his own invisible place in that familial world. What Kornreich’s boy-narrator is fascinated with most compulsively – the household dustbuster, the backyard tree, the bushes that separate one backyard from another, not to mention the mysterious brown residue that resides at the bottom of the deep end of the family’s backyard pool – is also the source of his most startling revelations. A first novel unlike any other, The Boy Who Killed Caterpillars is a book of lingual daring and domestic disturbance that belongs on the shelf next to Gordon Lish’s Peru, not only for the singular way that it deals with the subject matter of childhood violence, but also for the sheer force and torque of its sentences.