cover image The Novelist

The Novelist

Jordan Castro. Soft Skull, $24 (192p) ISBN 978-1-59376-713-6

Castro debuts with the meticulous accounting of a day in the life of a struggling Baltimore novelist. Awakening early one morning, the unnamed novelist, perhaps in his 30s, gravitates to his laptop, where he contends with a strong urge to check email and tries to follow his “don’t check Twitter before noon” rule. He ends up scrolling anyway, and his mind wanders to the nature of followers. Soon he is searching for old high school friends on Facebook and Instagram while mulling over his novel-in-progress’s semiautobiographical subject material about his life back in Ohio, during a period of withdrawal from heroin addiction. With increasing intensity, and while “staring vacantly” at the screen instead of writing, the young novelist begins to feel the morning slip away in a swath of procrastination, which Castro punctuates and harnesses by taking his protagonist down rabbit holes of thought. It is in these intimate and unabashed ruminations, such as about the difference in taste between “organic and inorganic” bananas, that Castro manages to trace the process of his protagonist’s distracted thoughts. Their quotidian miniaturism bears the influence of Nicholson Baker and Lucy Ellmann, making for a welcome relief from the novelist’s obsession with the internet. Struggling creative types will undoubtedly see themselves in this confident and surprising chronicle. (June)