Jonah Man

Jonah Man

by Christopher Narozny
     
 

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Narrated by a one-handed juggler who moonlights as a drug trafficker, a talented young boy who longs to escape the shadow of his abusive father, and a police inspector whose overzealous efforts to solve a murder result in a series of calamitous missteps, Jonah Man explores the dark side of life behind the curtain, where artists resort to the most extreme

Overview

Narrated by a one-handed juggler who moonlights as a drug trafficker, a talented young boy who longs to escape the shadow of his abusive father, and a police inspector whose overzealous efforts to solve a murder result in a series of calamitous missteps, Jonah Man explores the dark side of life behind the curtain, where artists resort to the most extreme measures—including drug dealing, self-mutilation, even murder—to prolong their time in the limelight. Resurrecting the lost language of vaudeville—a “Jonah Man” was a performer who, despite his best efforts, had stalled in his career—Jonah Man is a gripping portrait of people torn between their greatest hopes and fears, while trying to keep reality at bay.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The title of this distinctive first novel is an expression that refers to a performer who, despite great effort, reaches the inevitable dwindling down of his career. The good news is Narozny’s fascinating glimpse into vaudeville in 1920s America does anything but stagnate. Told from the perspectives of a one-handed juggler whose prospects have gone south, a teenage boy with a talent for stealing the show, his wheeler-dealer dad who boozes and canoodles, and a police inspector with close tabs on them all, the narrative traces the gritty life on the show circuit, one schmaltzy act after another. But beneath all the fake glitz and glamour, there’s another story to tell: both the juggler and the drunk are addicted to an incandescent silver-blue substance, selling it to susceptible patrons on the side and skimming off their stash. All the characters are three-dimensional, each with a hidden soft spot that others unfortunately find opportunities to exploit. When the boy’s drunk dad is found murdered with a prostitute, her “wig crumpled blonde and bloody beside them,” and the cop investigates, there’s motive around every corner. A classic whodunit ripe with spare, snappy prose and riddled with period language, this is one show-stopper that deserves a standing ovation. Agent: Peter McGuigan, Foundry Literary + Media. (May)
From the Publisher

"I put my faith in Narozny’s work. It is controlled and deliberate, and the ride is beautiful. Why not read a new author? Why not read Jonah Man?"—The Rumpus

“A classic whodunit ripe with spare, snappy prose and riddled with period language, this is one show-stopper that deserves a standing ovation.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Pay attention to Narozny. He is an emerging talent likely to become more widely known in short order.”—Booklist

“An original and promising literary debut.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Jonah Man is a vivid and unsettling portrait of naked American ambition, and Chris Narozny is a nimble and unflinching writer.”—Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers and Ablutions: Notes for a Novel

“A sort of charismatic bastard child of No Country for Old Men and The Grifters, Jonah Man is a riveting, suspenseful look at the grittier side of early 20th-century vaudeville. Beautifully and tautly written, this is an extraordinarily successful first novel.”—Brian Evenson, author of Last Days and The Open Curtain

“As compelling as it is atmospheric, Jonah Man is above all mercilessly readable. This is the kind of storytelling that keeps you flipping pages against your will deep into the wee hours. Narozny writes like an insider. His prose is lean, mean and razor sharp.”—Jonathan Evison, author of Lulu and West of Here

“Chris Narozny has dipped his 21st-century pen into early 20th-century ink and come up with a wonder even a carney couldn’t oversell. Full of backflips, hook hands, bad drugs, busted acts and rag-tag beauties burning out before uncaring audiences under the glare of calcium lights, Jonah Man sings its story from deep in the throat, tells it from the gut, casts it into hard-won, hytone prose, tosses it growling and sparking onto the sticky asphalt, lets it bandy twist and barrel turn in the sizzling rain, the jaw-dropped sun.”—Laird Hunt, author of Ray of the Star and The Impossibly

“If William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy got together to write a novel about vaudeville, it would probably be something like Chris Narozny’s Jonah Man.”
Michael Kimball, author of Dear Everybody and Us

“What can we learn from exceptionally talented orphans, one-handed, moonlighting jugglers, and inspectors who proceed by the light of accidents? A great deal indeed. In the enigmatic language of vaudeville, Jonah Man posits readers at the crossroads with an invitation to consider the gaps between who we have been and who we might, still, become. A remarkable achievement, this book is a dream. And like all powerful dreams, it has the power to wake you.”—Selah Saterstrom, author of The Meat and Spirit Plan and The Pink Institution

Kirkus Reviews
Narozny draws an intriguing literary debut from the unexpected milieu of yucks and pratfalls, "browsers" and "sleeper jumps" of 20th-century vaudeville. It is 1922, glory days for skits and novelty acts on stages large and small. But Swain, a one-handed juggler, scrambles for second-tier bookings, relegated to chase audiences after the performance of a child artist as gifted as a young Chaplin, a youngster named Jonson. Swain also is a drug courier, distributing vials of silver-blue liquid around the hinterland, vials he notches carefully each time he samples and then dilutes the contents. Narozny supplies ample back story for Swain. Twenty years earlier a major headliner as a wire act, and then he fell. Confidence gone, Swain partnered with Connor, a medicine show charlatan until, missing the vaudeville lights, he makes an unspeakable choice to return. The novel is divided into quarters, with Jonson père, soon to be Swain's nemesis, the focus of the most compelling segment. Jonson too was vaudeville, in a husband-wife act, but his wife died in childbirth, leaving him with his son. Easing his pain with booze, Jonson takes work as a piano player in a high-society brothel, allowing his boy to be mothered by one of the girls. Jonson also becomes an ally of the madame, and she sends him back to vaudeville, accompanied by the boy already so talented as to be "a hytone note on a bill of hokum." Jonson is also to deliver the silver-blue narcotic and shadow Swain's drug dealings, an easy task since he's already suspicious of Swain's intentions toward his son. There are murders, with the final two segments unreeling from the point of view of the boy and of a nameless detective identified as the Inspector. The story unfolds believably, albeit with a subtle shadow of near surrealism. An original and promising literary debut.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781935439486
Publisher:
Ig Publishing
Publication date:
04/17/2012
Pages:
200
Sales rank:
1,092,277
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author


Christopher Narozny earned an M.F.A in fiction from Syracuse University and a PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Denver. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in American Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Marginalia, elimae, and Hobart. While at Syracuse, he won the Peter Neagoe Prize for Fiction, and at the University of Denver, he was awarded the Frankel Dissertation Fellowship for an earlier draft of Jonah Man. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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