Kockroach (P.S. Series)

( 4 )


It is the mid-1950s, and Kockroach, perfectly content with his life infesting a fleabag hotel off Times Square, awakens to discover that somehow he's been transformed into, of all things, a human. A tragic turn of events, yes, but cockroaches are awesome coping machines, so Kockroach copes. Step by step, he learns the ways of man—how to walk, how to talk, and how to wear a jaunty brown fedora. Led by his primitive desires and insectile amorality, he navigates through the bizarre human realms of crime, business, ...

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It is the mid-1950s, and Kockroach, perfectly content with his life infesting a fleabag hotel off Times Square, awakens to discover that somehow he's been transformed into, of all things, a human. A tragic turn of events, yes, but cockroaches are awesome coping machines, so Kockroach copes. Step by step, he learns the ways of man—how to walk, how to talk, and how to wear a jaunty brown fedora. Led by his primitive desires and insectile amorality, he navigates through the bizarre human realms of crime, business, politics, and sex. Will he find success or be squashed flat from above? Will he change humanity, or will humanity change him?

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Don't be squeamish; pick up this witty, unsettling book. Even if you can't read, you'll enjoy the little flip-movie printed on the bottom right corner of each page that shows a cockroach transforming into Kockroach. You'll think of him every time you turn on the bathroom light and surprise those little scavengers going about their business while you go about yours.
— The Washington Post
Matt Weiland
Unlike Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, Kockroach is spectacularly successful — indeed the novel becomes a commentary on the nature of American success itself. Summing up Kockroach’s career at the end, Knox writes: “In the world of crime, he first was an enforcer. In the world of business, he first was an exterminator. In the world of politics, he first will be a senator.” It’s a fine line between Gregor Samsa and Richard Nixon.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Kafka's "Metamorphosis" is turned on its antennae in this roaringly entertaining noir novel. Knox's debut begins with a cockroach waking up to find he has been transformed into a man. Kockroach, however, doesn't lapse into despair, but instead demonstrates the relentless survival instinct of his species by learning how to get by in the human world. Helping him is pint-size Times Square hustler Mickey "Mite" Pimelia, who sees in Kockroach (or, as he's known to humans, Jerry Blatta) his ticket to the top. Sex, organized crime, violence, betrayal and success follow for Kockroach, whose insect's sense of amorality aids his ascent. Meanwhile, Celia, a crippled but beautiful woman, befriends Mite and finds herself drawn to Kockroach. Knox's inhuman antihero's tale is told in flawless noir style Kockroach's coldness juxtaposed against Mite's bitter self-recrimination in a seedy, smoky 1950s New York and Kockroach's insights into that New York are perversely delightful. The book's conceptual cleverness is ultimately eclipsed by the epic story line, making for a compelling story of greed and power that is more Chandler than Kafka. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this reversal of Kafka, a cockroach wakes up one morning to find himself a human. After this shock, Kockroach goes through a period of adjustment to the human body and eventually moves out into the world, which is New York City circa 1950. A second narrator, Mite, relates his own story; picked on while growing up in Philadelphia, he eventually moves to New York. Mite is being pursued by a mobster, and his meeting with Kockroach leads to the revelation that Kockroach is stronger than most. Mite and Kockroach move up quickly in the local mob scene, but it isn't long before Kockroach, with his Forest Gump-like innocence and his strength, becomes the boss. A third narrator, Celia, a woman with a deformed leg, offers her version of what is happening between Mite and Kockroach. As the story progresses, Kockroach moves in telling fashion from gangland to business and eventually politics. Kockroach's narrative is filled with observations about human relationships as seen through the eyes of a cockroach and effectively changes as he becomes more acclimated to the world of humans. Debut novelist Knox presents a study of human society from a unique perspective. Recommended for larger collections.-Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A frantic, fierce take on Kafka's Metamorphosis. Kockroach wakes one day in a 1950s Times Square hotel transformed: bug to man. And he's not thrilled, seeing the "sharp elegance" of his former "face" become something whose "short bristly hairs cover the bottom half, surrounding a thin white rictus, the mandibles bizarrely set horizontally and lined with ghastly white teeth." It's one of Knox's better jokes to see the change as devolution. Soon, Kockroach brandishes an ugly new name, Jerry Blatta, and rises to reign as a gangster kingpin. Boosting him is Mighty Mite, pint-sized penny-ante hood, a Charlie Parker of slang: Here, he's recalling his corduroy-clad, cheap shoe-shod boyhood self: "I was like a one-man band when I walked down the school hallway, run, squeak, scruff, squeak. Throw in Billie Holiday, I could have played at Minton's." Perpetually mourning the premature passing of his epileptic mother, Mite nurses a crush on Celia, a cute, crippled telephone operator and belle of the automat. Blatta's no such softie: Pure id, he pounces on prostitutes (his mind reeling from insect-sex memories-a passage wherein Knox achieves entomological poetry) and then pimps them out. He's a powerhouse, smacking rival thugs with his former feelers, and a nihilist philosopher: Despite pop songs, he can't dig human love, but is convinced the two-legged run on two fuels-greed and fear. Yet he's not without charm, strutting Broadway "like a jazz band throwing out a syncopated rhythm." The plot has the memorable clarity of fable, but it's the creepy-mythic atmospherics-imagine a hybrid of Ted Hughes's Crow poems and pulp-noir film fare like the Candyman series-that make this one cook. Surreal, standoutdebut fiction. Agent: Wendy Sherman/Wendy Sherman Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061143342
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/26/2008
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 848,838
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Tyler Knox holds a master of fine arts degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. A former resident of New York City, Chicago, Iowa City, and Washington, D.C., he now lives on the East Coast with his wife and their dog.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 20, 2011

    great read

    hilarious and insightful. so worth the read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    Have I read this before?

    This is a good book but about 10 years ago there was a book for kids called Shoebag about a cockroach who turns into a little boy. Kafka's Metamorphosis is mentioned as well as Kafka's hero Gregor Samsa. It's still in print. Scholastic. Author Mary James. There is also a sequel called Shoebag Returns.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A powerful yet gloomy parable

    The cockroach wakes up in a 1950s Times Square roach hotel to find somehow he no longer is a bug, but instead has become a male human. Though he is unhappy to devolve into a man, Kockroach is not concerned as his species understands survival of the fittest having been around since the dinosaur age and still thriving in the cement jungles in spite of weapons of mass destruction better known as human shoes.-------------- Kockroach takes the name of Jerry Blatta as he meets street punk Mickey 'Mite' Pimelia, who sees the transformed bug as a way to make a fortune in the world of gangs. However, Jerry notices that Mighty Mite is soft on crippled telephone operator Celia so he keeps that handy in case he needs to use this info. Celia finds the roach morality of survival is everything quite enticing. Meanwhile king Kockroach begins to climb his way to the top of the gangs as he understands inducing fear.------------- Tyler Knox cleverly satirizes Kafka's Metamorphosis and 1950s Noirs with this delightfully dark saga. The antihero sees the world through cockroach glasses as he realizes that humans run on fight (over possessions) or flight (out of fear). Thus combining 'moral' bug instincts with insightful clarity of the dreaded shoe stomping society he has joined, Blatta provides quite a vivid picture of the human condition, always one step away from the graveyard. Readers will appreciate this powerful gloomy parable.--------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 4 Customer Reviews

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