Sunday, October 2, 2011

The End of the World by Andrew Biss

The End of the WorldThe writing in this novella keeps your interest; after reading the sample I immediately went to Amazon and got the rest. I have read other submissions about young people thrust into other worlds, but the narratives often run out of gas and the author tries to string multiple situations together without much of a unifying theme, leaving the reader puzzled. Biss celebrates the ordinary and alludes to the horror (again, mostly offstage, as in ZombieStop Parade by Richard Buzzell) that makes up millions of unfortunate peoples' lives. There is a lot of Buddhist sensibility here, and those who can let the attachments fall away without too much trouble have an easier time at The End of the World, portrayed as a run-down boarding house distractedly attended to by a Mrs. Anna. Valentine, the protagonist, is raised by a strange couple who seem to embody the false sense of safety of the First World. They abruptly send him away with some money, the panacea of the West. He is too attached to the money to give it up to a mugger, only to be relieved of it by a denizen of the boarding house soon after his arrival. “My name is Luka. I live on the second floor,” says another housemate in an homage to Suzanne Vega and, perhaps, Arthur Phillips' book of homages, The Song is You. Mrs. Anna plays midwife in the end, plying Valentine with Proustian wisdom and guiding him towards modest expectations as he enters his next womb, an old washing machine. We are left hoping that he will be better prepared for the life he will lead if the womb is Sudanese or Syrian.

Visit the author's website for more information.

No comments: