cover image The Guest Lecture

The Guest Lecture

Martin Riker. Black Cat, $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6041-6

Riker (Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return) spins a brilliant and innovative exploration of modern economic history in the form of a late-night waking dream. Abigail, a feminist economist who has recently been denied tenure, lies awake in a hotel room while the rest of her family sleeps. As she battles insomnia and anxiety over the lecture she’s scheduled to give the next day on John Maynard Keynes and utopia, she attempts to practice using a rhetorical strategy in which she assigns segments of her speech to rooms of her house. Keynes then shows up in her imaginary house with a “worried grandpa look,” and proceeds to give her a tour, sprinkling nuggets of his ideas and biographical details, “like pixie dust” in his words, in the various rooms. But Abby drifts away from her lecture and into the terrain of memory, priority, and stresses about her world, as well as the world at large—“You are not entirely powerless. But mostly, yes, you are powerless,” Abby reminds herself. Distinguishing between Keynes’s “two kinds of needs,” food and shelter versus “wants masquerading as needs,” Abby’s metaphysical wanderings swell to a scorching condemnation of modern life and an empathetic celebration of its meaningful moments. It’s a transporting, clever, and inspired work of fiction. Agent: Kate Johnson, Wolf Literary. (Jan.)