Thursday, March 23, 2017

The One-Eyed Man: A Perfect Novel For These Troubled Times

In these troubled times, you never know what will be someone's last straw of relative sanity. In the case of K, the protagonist in Ron Currie's funny, ripped-from-modern-culture new novel, The One Eyed Man, it's hand soap. Why hand soap? Because this hand soap insists on calling itself "liquid hand wash." And that just seems absurdly stupid to him. 

Why this bottle of liquid hand wash, of all the nonsense I’d encountered in nearly forty years on the planet, was the thing that suddenly sent me over the edge, I cannot say. I will simply report what I know: that there in Tony’s bathroom I was visited by the hammer-stroke certainty that the culture I counted myself a part of, the culture that had weaned and reared me, had become proudly, willfully, and completely divorced from fact.

If you like this paragraph, and I intensely do, you'll probably really like this novel. These lines form the cornerstone of K's life strategy going forward. He decides, partly because of this moment of clarity and partly because something has snapped in him after his wife's death from cancer, he'll make every decision in his life based only on pure facts, not on emotion, not on manipulation, and not on what others think.

And furthermore, he decides to confront stupidity in all its forms. As one example, he takes on a redneck with a racist "WHOSE NEXT" bumper sticker. This earns him a punch in the face — the first of many beatings he takes as a result of his new policy about resisting bullshit in all its forms. One of the things I love about this novel is that it's partly about the sheer amount of stupidity we have to either deal with or ignore simply to get through an average day. Most people can relate to that.

K's new outlook, combined with the small measure of fame he achieves by breaking up a robbery at a coffee shop at the beginning of the novel, lands him a reality TV show called "America You Stoopid." Here, he takes on all our worst unexamined assumptions and stupidities, and those who hold them to be gospel — no one is safe, not liberal, conservative, religious person, or atheist. Currie (and K) reserve particular contempt for gun nuts, which leads to a spectacular, almost Stephen King-esque ending.

I've loved both of Currie's other books I've read, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles and Everything Matters!, and I loved this too. In this world of "alternate facts" and constant purposeful manipulation of the truth, even at the highest levels, this novel really lands solidly. But beyond that, as always with Currie's writing, it's just madly entertaining. It's definitely dude-lit, but without the often annoying self-deprecation that hallmarks most dude lit. There are no punches pulled here. And it's terrific. Highly recommended.