Not since Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 has there been as unsettling a fictional journey into the Southern California state of mind as Michael Drinkard's Disobedience. It is a darkly funny and unhingingly brilliant multi-generational novel set in the orange groves of Redlands, California, one that shuttles effortlessly from the late nineteenth century to the day after tomorrow. In 1885 Eliza Tibbets and her civil engineer husband, Luther, are strenuously trying to conceive a child. In frustration she ...
Not since Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 has there been as unsettling a fictional journey into the Southern California state of mind as Michael Drinkard's Disobedience. It is a darkly funny and unhingingly brilliant multi-generational novel set in the orange groves of Redlands, California, one that shuttles effortlessly from the late nineteenth century to the day after tomorrow. In 1885 Eliza Tibbets and her civil engineer husband, Luther, are strenuously trying to conceive a child. In frustration she plants the first Washington Navel orange tree in Southern California: from that act and a fortuitous encounter with President McKinley... will spring a family dynasty in the Inland Empire. In the late 1980s Eliza's spacey great-granddaughter Mavy Tibbets, daughter of novelist Bernal Tibbets - the author of that savage mid-seventies cult classic Ripcord - derails Franklin Wells from his 58.9K career with Solvtex, corporate marauders of the information age. In the very near future Mavy and Fanklin's teenaged son Aaron, an MGM Mentally Gifted Minor is beset by every variety of post-modern adolescent angst from the sexual to the ethical. He decides that saving the last remaining orange grove from his dad's real estate depredations - including the original tree, now called the Tibbets - is the only way he can redeem a universe threatened at every turn by digital and ecological apocalypse. What happens across the crowded span of more than a century in Disobedience reveals the multifarious way in which the frontier mentality keeps reinventing itself in California. A sort of cocktail of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and a darker flavored Tom Robbins, this novel grabs you by the oranges and knows exactly how hard to squeeze. In Disobedience Michael Drinkard breaks all the rules to retool the American novel for the next millennium.
Drinkard's southern California is a semi-futuristic, Pynchonesque world where steaks are sprayed with carcinogen-blockers and people meet through video party lines. His cartoonish, postmodern multigenerational saga flips back and forth through time, from 1885, when Eliza Tibbets plants California's first navel oranges as a symbol of the fertility she so desperately wants, to the near future of her great-granddaughter's family. Mavy Tibbets, a spaced-out coven member and daughter of a notorious hard-core novelist, protects a family secret that will later feature in her disappearance or murder. Her husband, corporate climber Franklin Wells, seeks relief from the info-tech age through surfing, sex, nature and Girl Scout cookies. Meanwhile, their teenage son Aaron is suspected by the police of torching his high school. California seems like a rootless time-warp where America constantly reinvents itself. Drinkard Green Bananas delivers a lyrical, devastatingly witty commentary on alientation in our increasingly irrational, violent world, but his hermetic fantasy soon palls. June
The story of an orange grove forms the backbone of this comic epic. Progressive Californian Eliza Tibbets plants the orange grove in the 1880s. One hundred years later, the schemes of her great-granddaughter's corporate cyber-goof husband threaten to kill off the trees. The novel remote controls among three different periods of time and in the process serves up enormously funny set pieces. Viewing his characters' high-resolution lives under the microscope of his imagination, the author Green Bananas , Knopf, 1989 is masterful, delighting in what language and the novel can do, scene after scene. This tale ranks with the great wise-guy novels of Pynchon, DeLillo, and Berger, and, in fact, it seems somewhat more informed by human contact than those others. Recommended for all libraries.-- Brian Geary, West Seneca, N.Y.
A mudslide envelops Franklin Wells and his family in their home, and thus begins a mordantly funny and relentless tour de force of a novel. Drinkard skewers the California dream, roasting it for all it's worth. The ruthless corporate computerland inhabited by Wells is but one feature in the loony landscape populated by, in addition to himself, his two young sons and their grandma, who has a "Gortex aorta, Teflon hip, pacemaker, glass eye, and Alzheimers." And somehow the rumor keeps cropping up that Franklin murdered the boys' vanished mother, Navy Tibbets, and so inherited her fortune. Add to this concoction some literary gymnastics in the form of flashbacks to the nineteenth century, when orange groves brought the Tibbets family its fortune. Drinkard's novel is an elaborate and provocative farce.
Michael Drinkard is the author of Green Bananas (1989). A native of Redlands, California, he is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz and holds an MFA in Writing from Columbia University.