Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Any Day Now by Terry Bisson

By using the techniques of alternate history, Terry Bisson has made his novel of the Sixties, Any Day Now (2012), a better book. Bisson risks alienating mainstream readers with alternate history elements, and genre readers may decide the book is not genre enough. The novel that emerges from this contradiction is one of the best books of 2012.

Those of us who lived through the Sixties, your humble blog correspondent included, remember it as a time of unpredictable turmoil and change on every societal axis. Novels of the Sixties, by their faithfulness to events, a checklist of assassination, war, and protest, lose that crucial unpredictability. Bisson pulls the rug out from under readers, events change in unexpected ways, restoring exactly how it felt to live in the Sixties. In the moment, nothing was safe or secure, nothing was nailed down.

The story follows the coming-of-age journey of a young man from his small town roots in Kentucky, to  college, to a loft in New York City, life on a commune in Colorado, drugs, politics, revolution, and the passage of time.

On a sentence-by-sentence level this book is exceptional. And funny. And compact. Maybe too compact. I found myself wanting more scenes with just about every character, which isn't a bad way to leave the reader. There are a lot of names tossed out as shorthand for volumes of information: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, JFK, LBJ, RFK, Abbie Hoffman, Weathermen, Tet Offensive, Humphrey, MLK, and Malcolm X. I'm hoping that's not too high a bar for most readers.

This is an extraordinary novel about the Sixties, a sly, skewed Sixties.

Related links:
RudyRucker reviews Any Day Now in Los Angeles Review of Books
Starred review in Publishers Weekly

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