cover image THE IMPOSSIBLY


Laird Hunt, . . Coffee House, $23.95 (205pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-117-2

A spy wanders through a strange series of interludes, attacks and interrogations as he struggles to decipher the identity of his potential assassin in Hunt's murky, obscure debut novel. It opens promisingly enough, with an unnamed narrator in several vaguely threatening encounters (including a romance with an unnamed woman) while staying in an unnamed city. He is reunited with an old friend named John, who in yet another nod to anonymity, gets involved with a woman named Deau. The four take a brief trip to the country in a series of scenes that make vague references to the spy's assignment and his status with his organization, concluding with a brief fight with John over the delivery of a package. The narrative drifts further from coherence as the book progresses, with the spy encountering a series of beautiful but often malevolent women who involve him in interrogations and continual random attacks while updating him on the "progress" of his assignment. The resolution is equally hazy and hallucinatory, describing the death of the spy's boss in a scene that seems quite disconnected from most of the earlier ones. Hunt's initial concept has promise—he captures the tone of Paul Auster's City of Glass in the first few chapters, and he brings a decidedly Kafkaesque feel to the spy's early adventures. At times, his style evokes Beckett and Stein. But the rambling prose and the absence of plot make this a difficult, frustrating read, with Hunt writing the same scene with slight variations but no added illumination, story or character development. The result is an incomprehensible book that buries the talent of an intelligent and potentially intriguing writer. (Sept.)