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The Unknown Knownsby Jeffrey Rotter
Synopses & Reviews
Jim Rath's wife has grown tired of his hobbies: his immaculately maintained comics collection, his creepy underwater experiments, and his dreams of building a museum based on the Aquatic Ape Theory of Human Evolution. On the night that she leaves him, Jim thinks he has spotted an emissary from a lost aquatic race called the Nautikons. In truth, the man is a low-level agent of the Department of Homeland Security. What follows is a riveting story of two quixotic men who stalk each other toward a bloody showdown — a spectacularly moronic act of terrorism at an aging water park.
The Unknown Knowns — its title is a reference to a quote from former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld — is a brilliant send-up of the insidious language and sometimes tragically comic focus of our country's Homeland Security Department. Combining the social satire of Kurt Vonnegut with the paranoid delusions of Thomas Pynchon, Rotter takes everyday domestic fixations and turns them into a hilarious assessment of the human condition. Fresh, imaginative, and deft, The Unknown Knowns marks the arrival of a unique new voice in literary fiction.
"Jim Rath has an unusual set of ambitions: 'My goal was a thorough understanding of water,' he says. 'But not on a chemical level. Not in any way you could test....I wanted to know why the water is always calling to us, what it wants to tell us.' In this ambling adventure, he attempts to find out. Combining Rath's story (including the predictable dissolution of his marriage) with that of Homeland Security agent Les Diaz, Rotter, in his first novel, weaves a semisuspenseful tale of (possible) international terrorism and, uh, water parks. Parading from a Colorado Springs, Colo., Hilton all the way to the Prospector's Bend theme park outside of Denver, Rath and Diaz engage in a battle of something like wits; Diaz thinks Rath is a jihadist, while Rath — at best a dreamer, at worst a psychopath — thinks Diaz is a merman from an imaginary underwater city. While Rotter makes a solid effort, the fantasy element of the book remains half-baked and, despite the timely and biting humor throughout, the thrill of the goofy 320-page chase isn't quite enough." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A comic novel of paranoia, misdirection and suicide....An offbeat and Pynchonesque debut, with some genuinely funny moments — and some freakishly aberrant ones." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] Vonnegut-esque tale of delusion, violence and homeland security... a hyperintelligent, surrealistic tale with a wackiness factor worthy of Kilgore Trout." Booklist (Starred Review)
"A wonderful book — smart, tight, and funny — Confederacy of Dunces meets Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin. I loved it." Douglas Coupland
"Jeffrey Rotter's first novel inhabits — and illuminates — an eerie landscape where romantic fantasy, paranoid delusion, and homeland security thrillingly intersect: in other words, twenty-first-century America." Jennifer Egan, author of Look at Me and The Keep
The Unknown Knowns — a reference to a quote from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — combines social satire with paranoid delusions, in this brilliant send-up of the sometimes tragically comic focus of America's Homeland Security department.
About the Author
Jeffrey Rotter holds an MFA from Hunter College where he studied under Peter Carey, Colson Whitehead, Colum McCann, and Andrew Sean Greer and was awarded the Hertog fellowship to perform research for Jennifer Egan. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and young son. The Unknown Knowns is his first novel.
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