Love and Fatigue in America

Roger King. Univ. of Wisconsin, $26.95 (254p) ISBN 978-0-299-28720-7
When invited to teach at a university in Spokane, Washington, the unnamed British narrator of King's (Horizontal Hotel) extraordinary autobiographical novel heads eagerly toward the promise of the American West. However, after collapsing in the gym and being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome—comprising "a rag-tag gang of misfit symptoms"—he and his loyal dog Arthur find themselves untethered, drifting across the country searching for somewhere to settle. His travels take him from doctor to ineffective doctor, from hospitable hosts to anonymous motels, and from bed to couch and back again as he struggles to find, at 40, who he is and what he's become. Although his romantic relationships fail, he does enjoy moments of startling tenderness: the undemanding love of Mary and her young daughter Zoe, who linger long in his heart; the flickering kindness of waitresses; and the unexpected intimacy granted him at a lingerie shop. What finally offers solace and meaning here is not to be found in biology or fate—although the narrator often feels crushed beneath both—but compassion. Throughout his domestic happiness in New Mexico, the dizzying energy of youth and sex in San Francisco, and the peace of a cabin in smalltown Massachusetts, the narrator's exhaustion never infects the writing. The narrative expertly cobbles together unexpected moments of poetry; meditations on illness, war, and ambition; and vignettes, which—like the narrator himself—alternately admit devastating failures and sing with triumph. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
Paperback - 273 pages - 978-0-299-28724-5
Open Ebook - 284 pages - 978-0-299-28723-8
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