cover image Year of the Rat

Year of the Rat

Marc Anthony Richardson. Univ. of Alabama/Fiction Collective Two, $18.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-57366-057-0

The unnamed narrator of Richardson's first novel returns to his unspecified home city to live with and care for an ailing mother in a cramped apartment. Over the course of a year, readers watch him navigate a return to his own history. The narrator's older brother is obsessed with status and religion and his younger brother is in jail; he himself is a failing artist and an alcoholic, and possibly has other mental health issues. Like Gogol's Poprishchin, the narrator is combative, racist, judgmental, self-hating, misogynistic, and overtly sexual. He makes decisions based on a code that is difficult to understand. Richardson has found a way to describe in words the inability to understand other people%E2%80%94he uses dense prose that circles on itself and leaps from present to flashback, depicting a muddled mind at work. Richardson effortlessly weaves quotes from a wealth of other texts into his work, creating in his narrator a sort of human callback to Western culture, or an embodiment of Ezra Pound's Cantos. The novel is certainly challenging, but once readers enter the story it's easy to be swept into its stormy momentum, and to acknowledge the very promising start of the author's career. (Sept.)