On books from matias Viegener, William Gass, and Teddy Wayne
2500 Random Things About Me Too
By Matias Viegener
By William Gass
In Middle C, Gass tells the story of a man who re-invents himself with every relocation, dragging his family behind, renaming himself and them, reimagining who he might be and become—never fully inhabiting an identity and never quite shedding the stain of human history he purports to flee. Rudi Skizzen leaves Austria, leaves London, and vanishes from the story. In his absence he leaves behind a son, Joey, who in turn runs from human calamity and depravity while fastidiously collecting evidence of the same. He gathers newspaper clippings, fragments that attempt and fail to catalog evil human behavior. These men are, ultimately, middling and ineffectual, but Gass’ sentences are not. They are lush, long, circuitous, and revealing, or they are sharp, short, and a little mean. The worldview here is precisely Gass’, who once quipped: “I write to indict mankind.”
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
By Teddy Wayne
The character of Jonny Valentine is so clearly inspired by Justin Bieber—his fame, age, talent, and hair—that it is sometimes hard not to imagine that he is Bieber. This is a good book, with a lot to say about celebrity culture, excess, exploitation, and naivete. But it is also completely unbelievable. Jonny is alternately a vacuous innocent and an entitled, calculating brand manager. His extremes are too widely distributed to be taken seriously, but as an emblem of a particular cultural problem, he works nicely. His loneliness and his language keep him grounded enough in pre-teen reality to keep readers caring, and Wayne’s narrative voice is perfectly tuned to the character and themes.