The Friday Review this week features Home Land released by Picador. It’s been sent back for a second printing after the novel had been rejected by two dozen major publishers. Sam Lipsyte’s Odyssey through the travails of book buying as we know it became a story as Sam was lifted from doom on the shoulders on his editors then passed to lit bloggers such as Mark Sarvas, who tracked the novel’s progress up the Amazon charts with a fervor not seen since Dick Clarke called us cats and kittens. Lizzie Skurnick aka Old Hag wrote a marvelous review in the New York Times. Home Land found its footing despite the rocky start.
Years after graduation Lewis Miner, Eastern Valley High, class of ’89 hasn’t gotten much done. Lewis has a thing for leg warmers, a fondness for sloth and a devotion to his version of Catamount Notes, the alumni newsletter. From the novel’s opening page to Lewis’ valedictory near the end Home Land is constructed around the simmering remains of high school politics and the canned prose of the alumni newsletter. Lewis and his friend Gary are as you left them after throwing your cap into the air; these guys never left, they just got older.
Tethered as he is Lewis aka Teabag addresses his Catamounts the way Cicero spoke to the Romans; he begs, he pleads, he scorches the earth. After he reconnects with his nemesis, Principal Fontana, and the leg warmer goddess, Jazz Loretta, Lewis actually realizes his desire to warn his peers of the dangers of achievement. “Don’t confuse the issue. Don’t duck the question. Don’t get preachy with the choir. Don’t mention anything, even in jest, at the airport. Don’t be born into difficult circumstances…don’t struggle with depression, don’t struggle to pay the bills.”
Teabag’s manifesto makes the entire novel worth reading; you may stumble here and there, Catamounts, after all, the main character has been banished from the mall. It would’ve been a travesty if Home Land hadn’t been published. Highly recommended.