The One-Eyed Man by Ron Currie Jr.
I have long loved this man's writing, particularly since Everything Matters, and Ron Currie Jr.'s latest book, The One-Eyed Man, kept me as amused, endeared and as impressed as it always does, even when it's brutal, even when it's vulgar, as it sometimes becomes.
It's an art, really, to have that kind of shock value. To create characters that will jump through your eyeballs into your brain and then pound and pound inside your skull until the boundaries of your thoughts begin to flex. As a writer, Currie gets away with this taunting of the human conscience. This man is clever, and so are his characters.
In this book, the main character, K. has lost his wife from cancer. Theirs wasn't a perfect relationship, but it was a long one, since childhood, and their lives had more or less become intertwined. He blames himself for her death because he had not known sooner that she was ill, despite sharing a home. This storytelling is done quite beautifully, and is relatable in that we all blame ourselves when we or someone we love becomes ill. Shouldn't we have known? Health is taken for granted until it is missing.
And, in having missed that, K. rarely misses a beat again following his wife's passing. He becomes committed to clarity, to certainty, to fact above all else. He becomes a fact vigilante, and, in this pursuit, he gets himself beat up, shot and beat up some more. Because when everyone moves forward in their daily life based on a compass operating on belief, which is quickly revealed as malfunctioning when faced with fact, people tend to spin out of control.
This effect is fascinating, and reality TV producer Theodore opportunistically approaches K. and invites him to mock mankind on hidden cameras and see what happens. K., with little to lose and much indifference, agrees. He is joined by Claire, a younger woman who had worked at, and quit, the health food store mentioned above following her first encounter with K.
K. quickly becomes famous because Theodore was right - the public love to watch as others squirm when what they believe is so radically assaulted by truth, and by K. K. is in turn attacked again and again. And, while he has admirers, these admirers too change sides when their own beliefs are called into question. As K. gains celebrity status, the risk to himself continues to build, and billow over. Eventually, he and Claire are kidnapped by gun slingers in Texas and, well, shit goes down.
If Currie is in any way trying to be political, it is a politics I much admire, because it calls into question both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, for their so painfully held beliefs. It is a commentary on our divisive times, where little is based in fact or reality. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a break from the ignorance we see in our U.S. politics and entertainment every day of 2017, to escape into a world where fact prevails. (Prevails not in that it wins, because the world is not so changeable, but in that it is recognized, at least by those who read and love K. Otherwise, things go pretty disastrously. Thoughts on better word usage welcome).