cover image 18% Gray

18% Gray

Zachary Karabashliev, trans. from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel. Open Letter (Longleaf dist.), $15.95 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-934824-71-9

Karabashliev, the eponymous main character of Karabashliev%E2%80%99s debut novel, is experiencing a major life crisis. Once a passionate photographer, Zack moved with his wife Stella to the United States from Bulgaria, the author%E2%80%99s native home, to attend graduate school. After running out of money, Zack sells his camera equipment and lies to get a job at a pharmaceutical company in Southern California. Just as Stella%E2%80%99s painting career takes off, she abruptly leaves, fed up with Zack%E2%80%99s conforming to middle-class life. The sudden vacancy sets Zack off an impromptu journey, starting with an impulsive trip to Tijuana, Mexico, where he mistakenly steals a large amount of marijuana. With a contact in New York City, Zack takes off on a transcontinental journey with a new camera, rediscovering his passion and undergoing a personal revelation. Though inconsistent, when author Karabashliev remains unselfconscious, he%E2%80%99s fast-paced, quick-witted, and filled with childish humor in his perspective of a Bulgarian living the drab American Dream and discovering that he hates it. (Feb.)