cover image The Cry of the Sloth

The Cry of the Sloth

Sam Savage, , illus. by Michael Mikolowski. . Coffee House, $14.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-231-5

Middle-aged underachiever Andy Whittaker plots a preposterous literary festival in this scathingly funny epistolary pastiche from Firmin author Savage. Andy is the editor of Soap , an inconsequential literary magazine ridiculed by rival The Art News , which Andy dismisses as “the in-house journal for a tiny clique of very conventional, very middle-class writers and painters.” His wife, Jolie, has left him, his mother is dying and the apartment buildings inherited from his father are crumbling. Fern Moss, a precocious poetess, taunts Andy with provocative poems and photos, while Dahlberg Stint, a hardware store employee and former Soap contributor, sends increasingly sinister threats. After his phone is shut off, a beleaguered Andy hunkers down to compose plaintive letters to Jolie, excuses for not visiting his mother, dismissive replies to Soap hopefuls, snide notes to his tenants, pitiful missives to a former one-night-stand, fake letters to the editor and “prose poems, little existential parables of tedium and despair, set in Africa probably.” Andy's self-aggrandizing and self-pitying grow more desperate as Savage expertly skewers Andy's comically insufferable exterior to reveal the tragic if insubstantial soul of a frustrated writer. (Sept.)