Why Are You So Sad?

Jason Porter. Plume, $15 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-14-218058-7
Porter's debut novel charts the trajectory of a man sinking under the weight of the whole world's sadness. Raymond Champs, an existentially angst-filled illustrator for a home furnishings corporation, is awash in the deep-end of corporate absurdity, wondering what if his overwhelming sadness isn't only a drop in the bucket but a swell in a rising tide of depression that afflicts everyone. With a covertly photocopied and nonchalantly distributed survey, Ray makes it his mission to find out, asking such questions as "Are you having an affair?", "Is today worse than yesterday?", and "Do you think we need more sports?". Ray seeks less a beam of hope among the rainclouds than the data to prove—to his level-headed wife Brenda or his threateningly eager boss Jerry—it's a true mass affliction, that he really isn't any crazier than the next guy. The book toggles deftly between its narrator's bummer of a worldview and his riotous, biting snark, peppered throughout with dashes of surprisingly transcendent philosophies. Porter's is a smart, compact debut that, despite sometimes hitting a nerve when it's aiming for the funny bone, resonates on both tragic and comic levels. Agent: Emily Forland, Brandt & Hochman Literary. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/06/2014
Release date: 01/28/2014
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