So far I’ve read only the first chapter of Steve Toltz’s 544-page first novel, A Fraction of the Whole, but when I get around to unpacking my future-reading pile, the book will be waiting at the top of the box.
Toltz’s narrator begins his story from prison, the morning after a rousing, mattress-burning riot. “It’s always something here,” he says.
[I]f there isn’t a riot, then someone’s usually trying to escape. The wasted effort helps me see the positives of imprisonment. Unlike those pulling their hair out in good society, here we don’t have to feel ashamed of our day-to-day unhappiness. Here we have someone visible to blame — someone wearing shiny boots. That’s why, on consideration, freedom leaves me cold. Because out there in the real world, freedom means you have to admit authorship, even when your story turns out to be a stinker.
Esquire‘s Tom Chiarella calls the book “an episodic story, kite-strung with mind fucks”; “it reads like Mark Twain with access to an intercontinental Airbus.” Richard Rayner says it’s a “willfully misanthropic and very funny… meditation on the inescapable legacies that fathers bequeath their sons and the overall toxicity of family.” Everyone seems to agree that the plot “is very much beside the point” in a tale this voice-driven and stampeding.
“[T]his story will be as much about my father as it is about me,” Toltz’s narrator warns us. “I hate how no one can tell the story of his life without making a star of his enemy, but that’s just the way it is.”
If you’re interested in reading the book, too, and you havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t already won one of my giveaways, email me at maud [at] maudnewton [dot] com today (2/21) before 11:59 p.m. EST with “Toltz” in the subject line. All entries will be assigned numbers based on the order received, and the randomizer will choose a winner. The randomizer likes Helene W. of Oakland, CA.