cover image Mira Corpora

Mira Corpora

Jeff Jackson. Two Dollar Radio (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (188p) ISBN 9781937512132

The protagonist of Jackson’s macabre and experimental debut novel is Jeff, the son of an abusive mother who runs away from home at the age of 11 and leads an itinerant existence, haunted by his childhood memories. The episodic chapters track the stages of Jeff’s life before and after his break: at six, he experiences transcendent beauty while hunting; when he’s 12 he falls in with a colony of disaffected youths who ritually burn a corpse; at 14, while homeless, he and some other teens pursue a messianic guitar player; and a year later, he falls in with a sadistic older man who tries to take control of his body and his life. By the end of Jeff’s surreal odyssey, at the age of 18, his years of wandering and exile may be over when he learns of his mother’s death. Through an often sordid and savage phantasmagoria, Jackson, also a playwright, blurs the boundaries between the real and the imaginary, creating an unsettling allegory of growth into adulthood. Despite leanings toward the absurd, the discrete chapters tend to read more like short stories, and by the end they hardly cohere into a unified whole. A coming-of-age story that rushes by in a kind of lyrical scream, the novel cannot entirely live up to its considerable pretensions. (Sept. 3)