by Jack Remick
358 pgs / $16.95
“All artists—poets, writers, composers, painters, sculptors—have screwed up childhoods when they come to me.” This is what psy(chadel)ic Estelle reveals to Eddie Iturbi, who has spent the previous two hundred or so pages escaping his own hellish youth.
Remick’s novel begins as any homage to Kerouac should: with a journey. But what initiates as a tight spool of plot and character suddenly and rapidly unravels into a tangled mess of energy and words that seems to be the product of an acid trip, or a fever dream, or both, but which is really a masterfully crafted (though sometimes confusing and nauseating) interpretation of poetry-as-religion. And though the story starts and ends in Kerouac-like tradition, (and Remick’s best writing is there) it devolves in the middle into a muddle of Proustian nonsense that will make a reader either wretch or go mad.
The story’s Christian symbolism is overwhelming, but it’s the mythic Greek overtones in the novel’s final chapters that are the most interesting, and the most fully fleshed-out. This is a kind of reflection of the plot’s roots: while Christianity inherently seems tied up in a bow, so too is the story, and it falls flat.
The reader revels in the loose ends, the what-ifs. Having all the answers borders on boring. There is one great what-if left. Eddie, our immortal guide through this rollercoaster of a book, should have died several times over. There’s a possibility that his existence at the point of unraveling (which is less than seventy pages into the 345-page novel) ends, and what remains is no fever dream, but a kind of pugatory he must endure (with some new found synethesia to boot) until he does find all of his answers. It’s just a theory - it’s possible, but I don’t have a whole lot of evidence to support it.
The true problem with this homage to Kerouac is that there is no real introspection. There’s a meditative quality that seems missing. Instead, Remick (like Eddie) is just writing everything down, without truly finding the meaning of any of it.