cover image The End of the World Book

The End of the World Book

Alistair McCartney, . . Terrace, $26.95 (306pp) ISBN 978-0-299-22630-5

McCartney, a creative writing teacher at Antioch University in Los Angeles, eschews conventional structure in this debut novel, offering instead a surreal and self-referential “encyclopedia” for the 21st century. Arranged alphabetically, McCartney employs a short, free association style to expound on disparate topics, including Princess Diana, head lice, extinction—and everything in between. The narrator’s obsessions—pornography, razors, cholos and his mother, to name a few—pop up frequently, and many entries are tinged with a sense of melancholy and foreboding. Paradoxically, his ruminations are most successful when they are most absurd. Pondering the unwieldy length of his name, for example, leads to the image of the narrator hauling each oversized wooden letter onto a bus, as the driver and passengers wait impatiently. Although the narrator considers himself “in large part a satirist,” he is aware that “there are spaces that satire cannot reach.” Only the most intrepid of readers will be willing to tackle the book from cover to cover, but fans of alternative literature and Borges may discover a kindred spirit. (Apr.)