The best word I can find to describe this book is demented. Whether that’s good or bad is a whole other story, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I’ll describe the plot of the book, and maybe you’ll get a taste of what I mean by demented.
To sum up, the narrator (Russell Hokes), a former highway painter, has decided to draw lines on paper instead and has somehow gotten a book deal to write about “the American small town.” Unfortunately, he’s partied away most of his advance before finding the small town, and is rather inebriated when he arrives by accident in the completely unincorporated hamlet of Wigfield, a place whose inhabitants have obviously been strongly affected by the radiation in the soil. (The primary attractions are three feuding self-proclaimed mayors, a lot of ge
ntleman’s clubs, and many, many used tire dealerships.)
The existence of this precious “town” (never recognized as such by the state) is threatened by a plan to take down a dam that diverts a river from the town site. Russell goes to desperate lengths to report the town’s struggles, and, more importantly, to use at least 50,000 words to do it (because that’s the contracted length of his book).
Most would consider this book in the genre of satire, but I’m not so sure about that. Sure, the humor’s rather biting, much like it is in satires, but the humor seems to not quite fit the dictionary definition of “holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn.” At times, quite frankly, the authors seemed to like their subjects too much, which, considering their messed-up nature, scared me more than a bit at times. It seemed more like they were just holding up the follies rather than holding them up for the reason of scorn.
Some parts—mostly the parts when the narrator’s talking about his progress on his book—were quite funny, but other times I wasn’t as amused.
So, yes, the book is demented—sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. But then again, I feel the same way about Saturday Night Live most of the time—I find a few parts funny but the rest always gets under my skin. If you’re a big SNL fan, though, you’d probably love this book. No matter who you are, it helps to be in the right mood when you pick it up.