Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review: The Absent Traveler by Randall DeVallance

The Absent Traveler: A Novella & Other Stories by Randall DeVallance

Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 2010 by Atticus Books (they just started an awesome online literary journal - check it out)

It's about: Charles Lime is 26 and works as a cashier at TechnoMart. He lives in the messy basement apartment of a lonely, overweight woman that has a drinking problem. In other words, Charles lives a sad, lonely life but has absolutely no drive to try to improve it. Instead, he finds means of escape through old issues of National Geographic and travel books. Reading takes him places ... literally.

This book also includes a few short stories, my favorite was about a pretentious author Edwin Block and his selfish editor, Sams, attempting to novelize The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

I thought: I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. The writing felt fresh, natural, and new. It was comfortable and entertaining to read. I never felt like DeVallance was trying too hard. I was amused and intrigued by how bland and horrible Charles' life is and how much he just doesn't care. I know it sounds boring ... but I swear, it wasn't. There's also an interesting little twist at the end that has you consider escapism and how unhealthy it really can be. Good stuff.

My one complaint was the italic font used to differentiate between Chris' life and what he was reading. The seriphs were way too swooshy for me. Yuck!

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: This book is great if you want a quick, refreshing read.

Warnings: I think there were a few swear words.

Favorite excerpts:

From The Absent Traveler -
They talked well into the night. Though he could hardly wait to get home, Charles was far too polite to excuse himself early, and in truth the excitement he felt gave his conversation a sharp, incisive edge. The mundanities of work he dissected with a scholar's thoroughness; the controversy surrounding the clogged toilet in the men's bathroom that morning--and whose duty it was to fix it-- he imbued with the subtlety and significance of a Byzantine political struggle.
From "Decline and Fall" -
Other than money, Sams expressed no passionate interest in any subject. His life was little more than a collage, built from fragments of the works he had represented over the years, a sort of Renaissance man by proxy. The breadth of his knowledge and eclectic nature of his possessions, rather than marking him as a man of voracious mental appetites, betrayed a shallow, parasitic personality. Sams was a master of the random fact; judiciously inserted into the middle of a conversation, dispensed at cocktail parties like hors d'oeuvres, he cultivated what was surely his one true talent, that of appearing to know absolutely everything. But rarely was deeper understanding pursued with anything approaching the zeal he reserved for a stiff whisky sour. 

What I'm reading next: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.