cover image Lacking Character

Lacking Character

Curtis White. Melville House (PRH, dist.), $16.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-61219-678-7

The first novel from White (Memories of My Father Watching TV) in 15 years is a comic, absurd delight. The queen of spells dispatches a masked, Zorro-like courier to rural Illinois in order to deliver a message to the marquis of N— (a thinly veiled Normal, Ill.). The marquis is down on his luck and spends much of his time playing Halo, but the message he receives from the masked man (whom readers learn is named Percy) is a request for the marquis to care for the masked messenger. Percy, it turns out, is a sort of subhuman puppet or animated doll created by the queen, essentially “lacking character” but possessing most of the other human traits necessary for contemporary suburban existence. The queen promptly forgets about her creation but eventually travels from the Hebrides to Illinois to find Percy performing “ritual abasement” in exchange for housing. The marquis, meanwhile, sends his grandson and manservant out on a rambling quest to find some money, or at least a job. In a metafictional sleight-of-hand, White gradually switches his authorial role from narrator to active participant in the story. White is a postmodern master, and in this wild satire he transforms the banal into magic. (Mar.)