Synopses & Reviews
In a rollicking black comedy about terrorism, war, and conjugal strife, the author whom Salon calls a writer of chameleonic fluency revisits some peculiar episodes in current American history.
Joyce and Marshall Harriman are struggling to divorce each other while sharing a cramped, hateful Brooklyn apartment with their two small children. One late-summer morning, Joyce departs for Newark Airport to catch a flight to San Francisco, and Marshall goes to his office in the World Trade Center. She misses her flight, and he's late for work, but on that grim day, in a devastated city, among millions seized by fear and grief, each thinks the other's dead and each is secretly, shamefully, gloriously happy.
Opening with a swift kick to our national piety, A Disorder Peculiar to the Country follows Joyce and Marshall as they swallow their mutual disappointment, their divorce conflict intensifies, and they suffer, in unexpectedly personal ways, the many strange ravages that beset America in the first years of the Bush administration. Joyce suspects Marshall has sent an anthrax-laced envelope to her office. Marshall taps her phone and studies plans for constructing a suicide bomb. The stock market crash and the war in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib and the clash of civilizations: all become marital battlefields. Concluding with the liberation of Iraq, A Disorder Peculiar to the Country astonishingly lampoons how our nation's public calamities have encroached upon our most intimate private terrors. It firmly establishes Ken Kalfus as one of the most daring and inventive writers at work today.
“Brilliant. . . . Its an engaging and provocative enterprise, a novel that challenges accepted pieties and dislodges expectations.” The New York Times Book Review
“An interesting departure from Kalfuss Slavic-inflected earlier fiction. Astringent, accomplished black comedy.” Kirkus Reviews
“Powerful. . . . Kalfus skewers the pieties surrounding 9/11.” The New Yorker
Joyce and Marshall each think the other is killed on September 11—and must swallow their disappointment when the other arrives home. As their bitter divorce is further complicated by anthrax scares, suicide bombs, and foreign wars, they suffer, in ways unexpectedly personal and increasingly ludicrous, the many strange ravages of our time. In this astonishing black comedy, Kalfus suggests how our nations public calamities have encroached upon our most private illusions.
About the Author
ken kalfus is the author of a novel, The Commissariat of Enlightenment, and the short story collections Thirst, which won the Salon Book Award, and Pu-239 and Other Russian Fantasies, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.