If an artist’s task is, as Beckett claimed, to “find form to accommodate the mess,” then Grossman has done it, with an exceptional feat of choreography and a radical vision for the possibilities of fiction.
The Book of Lazarus
The story of a brutal war between the Mafia and a seventies revolutionary gang, The Book of Lazarus is the second volume of Richard Grossman’s American Letters Trilogy, which describes earthly visions of hell, purgatory, and heaven. The first book in the series is The Alphabet Man, his award-winning novel about a serial-killer poet struggling with damnation.
The Book of Lazarus isn’t just a successful portrayal of a dream-turned-nightmare. It also is a risky and moving novel, a dignified piece of visual art — and a welcome challenge to publishers who believe the successful bottom line lies in ghost-written celebrity bios.
Richard Grossman writes the perfect novel for our times.
The Alphabet Man
“America loves a murder, and I am a murderous American,” observes Clyde Wayne Franklin, who is considered by many to be the foremost poet in America. No ordinary killer, he is equal parts writer, obsessive lover, alcoholic, moralist, ex-con, clown, and butcher. The Alphabet Man is the story of his ruthless search for carnal love and spiritual redemption as he moves through the underworld of Washington, D.C., a sadistic landscape peopled by drug dealers, prostitutes, and assassins-for-hire. Part thriller, part psychological and linguistic masterpiece, Grossman’s explosive fiction convinces us that if there is a pure poetry in the modern world, it must be rooted in madness, prophecy, and bloodshed.
Clyde Wayne Franklin … is the most horrifyingly beautiful and monstrously lyrical narrator to stalk the pages of American fiction since Nobakov’s Humbert Humbert.
One of the best novels of any year, it is brilliantly structured to match the painfully coherent structure of Franklin’s schizophrenic consciousness; it is also stylistically impeccable, managing to sustain its multiplicity of voices flawlessly.
In this very dark, very daring first novel by Richard Grossman, words are the only palpable reality. The dense texture of this novel is immediately compelling — words are enlarged and mutilated, they are strewn across pages, they are thrown together in mad, uncommon, even ungodly combinations.
The Alphabet Man is a dark joke, unsparing and uncommonly harrowing. It is also a novel with a split personality to match its protagonist’s: part brilliant narrative, part lexical and typographical mutant.
Dark humor enlivens what is essentially an absurdist, postmodern fairy tale probing the psyche of a serial killer.