Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Today: Wild Abandon by Joe Dunthorne

Joe Dunthorne’s 2008 debut, Submarine, was darkly funny, gently experimental and widely lauded. His sophomore effort, Wild Abandon (Random House) is not that book, though Dunthorne has brought some of his themes along for the ride. (One suspects we’ll be seeing them again and again.)

Seventeen-year-old Kate and 11-year-old Albert have been raised on a commune in rural Wales. The impending break-up of the relationship of their parents puts the future of the commune in jeopardy and Kate enrolls in school for the first time. Her absence leaves Albert at an impressionable impasse and he finds himself under the influence of a seductive stranger who advises him about the coming end of the world.

Seeing the rural utopia he’s built fracturing through forces beyond his control, Albert and Kate’s father determines to take action… by hosting a rave.

The pace here is fast and some of the characters and situations sound absurd, but Dunthorne’s voice is calm and relaxed and he wheels us through wild territory with a reassuring confidence and smoothness.

Wild Abandon was published to wide applause in the UK and Canada in 2011. Random House delivers it to Americans today. Some of Dunthorne’s ideas and wordplay will be difficult for American readers to follow, but I suspect that some of them will make the effort: Dunthorne’s step is sure. And his future? It looks bright.

“The last day on earth is coming. Bring your own booze.” ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.



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