Publishers Weekly has called Bisson's prose "a wonder of seemingly effortless control and precision," and John Crowley hails Bisson as a "national treasure!" Any Day Now is truly a literary tour de force. It is a poignant excursion into the last days of the Beats and the emerging radicalized culture of the sixties from Kentucky to New York City and daringly unique. This road movie of a novel, which begins as a fifties coming-of-age story and ends in an isolated hippy commune under threat of revolution, provides a...
Publishers Weekly has called Bisson's prose "a wonder of seemingly effortless control and precision," and John Crowley hails Bisson as a "national treasure!" Any Day Now is truly a literary tour de force. It is a poignant excursion into the last days of the Beats and the emerging radicalized culture of the sixties from Kentucky to New York City and daringly unique. This road movie of a novel, which begins as a fifties coming-of-age story and ends in an isolated hippy commune under threat of revolution, provides a transcendent commentary on America then and now.
Locus magazine columnist Bisson pays homage to the beat poets as he embraces the social atmosphere of the late ’60s and early ’70s in staccato, pared-down prose that suits the novel’s coming-of-age narrative. Clay is born to moderately progressive parents in the conservative Kentucky town of Owensboro. As a young college dropout and malcontent, he heads to New York and finds himself on the periphery of the radical left. After becoming linked to the extremist Weathermen just as they bomb a New York City building, Clay flees to New Mexico and settles in a makeshift hippie commune beneath a geodesic dome. As a character, Clay is a beautifully drawn emblem for the identity crisis playing itself out in America then: at once an unassuming mechanic who embodies smalltown American values and an idealistic beat poet who has rejected mainstream society. Snippets of the outside world come to us as they do to Clay, through letters from his mother and occasional newspapers that paint a picture of an inhospitable and treacherous period of American history. Bisson shows true finesse in capturing the mood of a generation. Though shy of 300 pages, the novel feels epic. Agent: John Silbersack, Trident Media Group. (Mar.)
This excellent novel is a poignant fictional recollection of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s that gradually veers, with the help of psychoactive drugs and political activism, into a kind of postapocalyptic survival story. In Owensboro, KY, where avid reader Clay grows up, social and racial hierarchies are very much in place. In his teens, Clay becomes interested in writing poetry and is attracted to the Beat movement, represented locally by a charismatic dropout who calls himself Roads. After a brief stop at a small Midwestern college, Clay ends up in Sixties New York City, where he meets a rich girl involved in radical politics and communal living. She vanishes after her house blows up, and the police begin following Clay, forcing him to take off for a commune in the West that becomes increasingly authoritarian. VERDICT The author, a writer of (probably under-appreciated) sf and fantasy novels, here deftly resurrects Sixties America. As history is gradually subverted and chronology reshuffled, the reader is slightly jarred and then fascinated by the dramatic world presented. Highly recommended for its literary quality and creativity of vision.—Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta
Kentuckian Clay Bauer moves from an early infatuation with Beat poetry to radicalism in this coming-of-age novel set in the 1950s and '60s. When you're interested in the writings Kerouac and Ginsberg—and the cool jazz of Brubeck and Jamal—but are growing up in Owensboro, Ky., life can be tough, for you're bound to be out-of-sync with the prevailing cultural norms. Clay's mother intends for him to go to Vanderbilt, but he never quite gets around to applying, so toward the end of the summer after his high-school graduation he hastily enrolls at Gideon, a small liberal-arts college in Minnesota. There he finds a few more simpatico friends than he had in Owensboro, but eventually even college feels confining, so Clay packs up for New York City, a place more congenial to his spirit. (He likes finding John Coltrane rather than Marty Robbins on the jukebox.) He digs life there (yes, he uses language like that) and hooks up with Mary Claire (aka EmCee), whose radicalism leads to her death as she's making bombs in her upscale townhome. The explosion puts Clay at risk as well, so he goes on the lam to a commune in Colorado, where the inhabitants labor to make a geodesic dome. Although Bisson takes us through the political developments of the time period, he also creates a weird alternate history—in which Hubert Humphrey becomes president and Martin Luther King is thwarted from becoming vice-president—as a backdrop to the action of Clay and his countercultural cohorts. Bisson builds his story up in relatively small chunks of prose, and while we don't lose the narrative thread, after a while the technique becomes tedious.
Terry Bisson is a Hugo and Nebula award writer. He has published seven novels and his short fiction has appeared in Playboy and Harper's magazine, among others. He previously worked as an auto mechanic and as a magazine and book editor. Bisson lives in Oakland, California.