Bird-Self Accumulated

Don Judson, Author New York University Press $21 (191p) ISBN 978-0-8147-4229-7
The protagonist of this ambitious first novel, a petty criminal and junkie tersely identified merely as Holgate, leads a fractured, fragmented life, wobbling from small-time robberies to prison to dingy apartments and drug dealing. Judson shuns traditional story line and tells Holgate's story in a whirlwind series of first- and third-person snapshots. The short tale opens with the narrator adrift, driving a borrowed car while high on pills. Then there's a botched robbery; a stint in jail; a drug deal gone bad; a constantly shifting backdrop of accomplices and girlfriends and ubiquitous violence. What does it add up to? An opaque vision, delivered with admirable intensity, especially in the first-person sections that occupy most of the book and, at their best, may remind readers of Denis Johnson's more intoxicating verbal benders. The shift to third-person narration in the book's second part, however, generates less energy, devolving into a static cycle of violence and disillusionment. What begins as a provocative tale thus dissipates, lacking an ending that can bring the entire landscape into focus. (May) FYI: Bird-Self Accumulated won the Mamdouha S. Bobst Literary Award (formerly known as the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award), granted to emerging writers.
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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