Christopher Boucher’s How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive
Much was made in literary circles of the fact that a scene in the first episode of the HBO series Girls—which you probably consider the best show on television this year, especially if you didn’t watch the second series of the BBC’s Luther—was set in an office made to look like the home of independent literary press Melville House Books. (The office wasn’t MHP’s, but the books on the shelves all were). Less was made of the words in the wonderful books MHP publishes, the beauty of the sentences and ideas and characters and words therein. So it makes good sense, at a moment when small presses possessed of an eye for design and beautiful prose are producing some of the most exciting work out there, for us to look at what’s in those gems.
And so in Christopher Boucher’s debut novel How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, a novel narrated by a man whose son is a VW Beetle, we find a conceit worthy of Calvino or Kafka, and prose humorous and darkly lyrical enough to bear a kinship to the best prose poetry of Charles Simic or Russell Edson. Our erudite reviewer Adam Novy—himself the author of an excellent experimental novel, The Avian Gospels, also published by an exciting young independent press, Hobart’s Short Flight/Long Drive Books—finds the novel “accomplished, wrenching… dense with specificity and character.” This combination of deep engagement with a book’s aesthetics and a larger sense of what’s exciting in the literary world is just what we look for in KR reviews.
It’s exciting to see energetic, ingenious and suddenly powerhouse independent presses like Melville House sneak onto the screen on HBO. It’s more exciting still to lose oneself in the exceptional electric prose inside the pages of their books.