Big Machine

I just finished reading Victors LaValle’s “Big Machine,” and I’ma go ahead and give it ★★★★★. It’s been raved and spotlighted in various places and has won several awards, including the Shirley Jackson Award for best novel of 2009, which is how I found it. I don’t really have a great link for a review, but so far I’d say the WSJ article is nice because it gives some background for LaValle, but I’d recommend skipping the first paragraph which gives only a little info away about the plot, but I read the book knowing absolutely zero about the story and I’m so grateful I didn’t read a single review — they all give away far too much, and some actually would have dissuaded me from cracking it open. It was a joy to let the plot unfold without any foreknowledge.

I would describe “Big Machine” as (self-effacing) literary horror with dazzling characterization, which is something rare and wonderful, in my estimation. I’ve not read anything quite like it, but I sure hope I do again; I’m kind of hoping that LaValle follows up with more from Ricky Rice and other characters from Big Machine, but whatever he writes, I will certainly read it.

Sure to up his critical standing while furthering comparisons to Haruki Murakami, John Kennedy Toole and Edgar Allan Poe. Ricky’s intoxicating voice—robust, organic, wily—is perfect for narrating LaValle’s high-stakes mashup of thrilling paranormal and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, as the fateful porter—something of a modern Odysseus rallied by a team of ‘spiritual X-men’—wanders through America’s ‘messianic hoo-hah. – Publishers Weekly

Oh, and PS: read the end acknowledgments of Big Machine — specifically the last paragraph, which includes an intriguingly mysterious thank-you shout out.

and PSS: when looking for bio information about LaValle, I came across a NYT article about the redecoration of his Washington Heights apartment. His comment about the zebra rug is hilarious.

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