Item description for Arkansas (McSweeney's Rectangulars) by John Brandon...
Arkansas is a biting first novel full of wet T-shirt contests, illicit drugs, and cross-country road trips. There are the days: the dappled grounds, the aimless yardwork, the hours in the booth giving directions to families in SUVs. And then there are the nights: crisscrossing the South with illicit goods, the shifty deals in dingy trailers, the vague orders from a boss they've never met. Before Kyle and Swin can recognize how close to paradise they are in this neglected state park in southern Arkansas, the lazy peace is shattered with a shot. Night blends into day. Dead bodies. Crooked superiors. Suspicious associates. It's on-the-job training, with no time for slow learning, bad judgment, or foul luck.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 6.25" Height: 8.75" Weight: 1.2 lbs.
Release Date Mar 1, 2008
ISBN 1932416900 ISBN13 9781932416909
Reviews - What do customers think about Arkansas (McSweeney's Rectangulars)?
Not What You Might Expect (Which, If You Read McSweeney's, Is Expected) Aug 20, 2008
Arkansas is a book that is unapologetic about breaking rules. It's full of unimportant details, irrelevant backstories with dialogues that don't always move the plot, a narrator who speaks in third person, but also in second, and then finally in first. Arkansas throws you off center, destroys your sense of balance. It makes you struggle and curse at your own inability to determine who exactly the good guy is.
And yet, you tolerate it. You tolerate it because it's different, because you can tell it's doing something new, just like Robert O'Conner's 'Buffalo Soldiers.' The same old elements are being combined in ways you never thought were possible, in ways that aren't fair. You're just starting to get hopelessly disoriented, pissed off, fed up, when John Brandon switches to second person. You. `You, Ken Hovan,' he says, and suddenly you don't get to be a confused reader anymore, but rather a confused character, inside the book, and you're not just watching the action, but in fact, you're the mastermind, the Godfather, the drug dealer who is responsible for everything. It's all your doing. Your fault. Your problem.
Once that happens, it's harder to put down. You want to know what it is that you, Ken Hovan, have been up to. So what is this book about? Objectively, it's about a bunch of drug dealers, criminals, and murderers who clearly weren't meant to be drug dealers, criminals, or murderers. They're too smart or too dumb, too sensitive or too insensitive, too comical and too harmless for the brutal, twisted, and gross things that they do. They like to cook. They have families. They fantasize and exercise and waste time in front of the tube.
You expect whores, torture scenes, overdoses and big cities from drug dealer books. You don't expect hilarity, mythical characters, meta moments, or philosophizing, and Brandon gives you all of those things. And then he does more; he gives you failure, and loss, and hurt, but not in a mushy gushy, call-you-mom-and-tell-her-you-love-her way. Instead he gives them to you in a choking, empty, silent way, a way that makes you question what you're doing here, and why you're doing it. `What's the plan for you two? You know, in life?' someone asks of one of the central characters, Swin. `We try to keep the meat on the bones and keep the bones moving,' he says, as if it's all that simple.
And when you're stuck in the middle of Arkansas, when you're alone there and trying to figure out what the hell is happening to you, and to the people around you, and to the life you've constructed, you start to think that maybe it is. Maybe it is that simple. Maybe it is that sad. Characters here feel what everyone has felt some point, guilty `to have life and not know what to do with it.' Some of them have ideals, but most of them don't. They get caught up, purely by luck, in the right things (friendship, tentatively, and love, vaguely) and, also by chance, in the wrong things. Somehow or another, that's what we all do- we fall into and out of things - while we ramble around in this confusing world, trying to keep the meat on the bones and keep the bones moving.
Meanwhile Brandon keeps coming back to the main man - you - and telling you how you feel. You (as the character) are an omniscient presence in the book, the Head Honcho, God, but you (as the reader) are also under Brandon's direction, at his mercy. "You can acknowledge the injustice and the absurdity of life," he says, "while never getting weighed down by these things." You realize that it's true. You can read this book without letting it keep you awake at night, but you can't read it without feeling its effects, now and then, when you go about performing your own mundane routine, dissecting your own predictable life. I couldn't relate to the drug deals, the murders, the being-a-fugitive-in-a-park. But I could relate to that one central question, and that, for me, was enough.
Arkansas Jul 22, 2008
Arkansas is a book. It has pages between a front and back cover. Arkansas is printed on the spine.
A perfect ending Jul 21, 2008
A power-packed first novel set between 1974 and 1998 in the southern US. The distinctive characters are mostly involved in drug running but not taking them. All have eclectic tendancies, none symbolic or easily labeled. The title ARKANSAS refers to the focus of the multi-layed operation, a nondescript state park with visitors, rangers, and animals. But, closer inspection would uncover buried bodies in the swamps. The main duo are the unlikely friends Kyle and Swin, who have drifting in common but their park ranger aliases bring them towards friendship, and a nurse in a clinic Johnna offers Swin the possibility of stability and fatherhood. Some terrifying scenes are balanced with humorous interactions; philosophical quibs and poetry come out of unlikely characters, and characters run hot and cold, a mixture of noble and base impulses. After the horrific bathhouse suspense, the final chapters evoke lyricism and realism as major characters show their strengths and indicate the likelihood of a sequel (set in Oklahoma?).
Buckle up! Jun 24, 2008
I've mostly been reading nonfiction this year; Arkansas, however, made me VERY glad to have tried something new. Between the book's immediate, taut, non-stop (and sometimes gruesome (and I mean that in a good way-- I still can't look at a coat hanger the same way)) action and its hilariously twisted characters, it very quickly roped me in. In terms of style... I don't get out as much as I'd like, so I guess the best I could come up with today is that Brandon strikes me as a southern-fried, Americanized Brookmyre. Looking forward to his next one!
book of the year Jun 5, 2008
arkansas is really fast moving and action packed (eyeballs being gouged out and cars being sunk into swamps), yet it doesn't feel rushed. you swiftly gain a relationship with the characters and strangely find them oddly relatable. not to mention this is the funniest book i have ever read.