We Can Report Them

Michael Brodsky, Author Thunder's Mouth Press $16.95 (356p) ISBN 978-1-56858-144-6
Brodsky (Three Goat Songs, Dyad) belongs to the avant-garde school of novelists who dispense with plot in favor of the referential possibilities of language. His latest novel loosely follows the adventures of an advertising man named Bert, who is making a strange TV commercial. Rather than promoting a product, the 30-second segment is intended to be a theatrical depiction of a serial killer, played by an actor called Gift, who constantly ridicules Bert. Bert also endures exclusion from a surreally influential Best Dressed list produced by powerful social arbiter Floyd Flowers, and the disdain of his boss, B. Austin Samuels. Off the set, Bert's sharp-tongued mother-in-law is hospitalized with cancer, tended ineffectually by her current and ex-husbands and by her daughter, Belle. Inspired by his worries, Bert's obsessive monologues--in which he stews over the motives and philosophy of the serial killer and ponders larger quandaries involving Heidegger, Pierce and mathematical theory--fuel the novel. Brodsky's Pirandellian conceit is that nothing ever seems to be filmed or acted: the whole content of a play (or in this case, the commercial) is the director instructing the players how to act it. Still, in the end the commercial is completed. Critical opinion is divided on Brodsky's 10 previous works of fiction, and the writer has alternately been read as a brilliant prose stylist and an off-putting obscurantist. Though the comic density of his language here yields some stunning verbal pyrotechnics, it just as frequently thickens into unintelligibility. While persevering readers will cull something from the book, others will likely give up. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/04/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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