The Super Fun Kids' Graphic Novel Sale

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005



by George Singleton


A review by Anna Godbersen

A novel called Novel may cause a certain amount of eye-rolling at this point (surely this trick has been played before), but, before dismissing this latest fiction-with-titular-self-reference, one should consider the reasons. Novel is the first novel by George Singleton, a writer known for his three collections of oddball and accomplished short stories -- one can hardly blame him for being hyper-conscious of this particular book's form. And then, the narrator of Novel is a man named Novel Akers, state-employed snake handler, undercover speech writer, brother to James and Joyce, the counterfeit Irish orphans his parents adopted before his birth. (A birth that involved John Cage as a midwife.) Novel is considering writing a memoir -- then he could call it Novel: The Autobiography -- and he does spend a good deal of Novel attempting to write his own Novel, thus relating various scenes from his eccentric childhood.

But there is plenty of high-energy present action, too, mostly centered around rural Gruel, South Carolina, the hometown of Novel's estranged wife, Bekah. There he embarks on various ventures, including the Sneeze 'n' Tone spa (Bekah's idea) and a writer's retreat. This last one allows Singleton to introduce the writer's how-to books, which Novel references throughout his tale, as well as some awful novel ideas and some very strange, but very eye-catching, first lines. The writer's retreat is dissolved before long, and Novel continues writing Novel -- here, Singleton brilliantly sends-up the conventions of the memoir, including, of course, rough childhoods, especially those of Irish orphans, bizarre Southern characters, etc. Soon, when Novel switches over to writing a history of Gruel (Gruel: A Biography or More Gruel Please?), he begins to sniff out a local web of lies. It looks like he may be switching genres again, to mystery, or perhaps conspiracy -- Gruel's small population has quite a lot of secrets. Novel is probably more rewarding for its zingers than for the way it hangs together as a, um, novel, but it is a wild and hysterical ride, even so.

Click here to subscribeSubscribe to Esquire and Save 75%

Get 12 fantastic issues of Esquire magazine for only $8. The best culture, entertainment, style, financial advice, women and more delivered right to your door every month ? at an incredible 81% savings off the newsstand price! What could be better... or easier?

Click here to subscribe now!

  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at