The Bend of the World: A Novel [NOOK Book]


"A comedy of bad manners, darting wisecracks, deadpan chagrin, and drug-hazed pratfalls" (James Wolcott), The Bend of the World is a madcap coming-of-age novel in which no one quite comes of age and everything you know is not a lie, it's just, well, tangential to the truth.

In the most audacious literary debut to come out of the Steel City since The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, we meet Peter Morrison, twenty-nine and comfortably adrift in a state of not-quite-adulthood, less concerned about the general direction of ...
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The Bend of the World: A Novel

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"A comedy of bad manners, darting wisecracks, deadpan chagrin, and drug-hazed pratfalls" (James Wolcott), The Bend of the World is a madcap coming-of-age novel in which no one quite comes of age and everything you know is not a lie, it's just, well, tangential to the truth.

In the most audacious literary debut to come out of the Steel City since The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, we meet Peter Morrison, twenty-nine and comfortably adrift in a state of not-quite-adulthood, less concerned about the general direction of his life than with his suspicion that all his closest relationships are the products of inertia. He and his girlfriend float along in the same general direction, while his parents are acting funny, though his rich, hypochondriac grandmother is still good for admission to the better parties. He spends his days clocking into Global Solutions (a firm whose purpose remains unnervingly ambiguous) and his weekends listening to the half-imagined rants of his childhood best friend, Johnny. An addict and conspiracy theorist, Johnny believes Pittsburgh is a "nexus of intense magical convergence" and is playing host to a cabal of dubious politicians, evil corporate schemes, ancient occult rites, and otherwise inexplicable phenomena, such as the fact that people really do keep seeing UFOs hovering over the city.

Against this strange background, Peter meets Mark and Helen, a slightly older couple, new to town, whose wealth and glamour never fully conceal the suggestion of something sinister, and with whom he becomes quickly infatuated. Mark is a corporate lawyer in the process of negotiating a buyout of Global Solutions, and initiates Peter into the real, mundane (maybe) conspiracies of corporations and careers, while Helen—a beautiful and once prominent artist—is both the echo and the promise of the sort of woman Peter always imagined, or was always told he ought to find for himself.

As Peter climbs the corporate ladder, Johnny is pulled into the orbit of a mysterious local author, Winston Pringle, whose lunatic book of conspiracies seems to be coming true. As Johnny falls farther down the rabbit hole, the surreal begins to seep into the mundane, and the settled rhythm of Peter's routine is disrupted by a series of close encounters of third, fourth, and fifth kinds. By the time Peter sets out to save his friend from Pringle's evil machinations (and pharmacological interventions), his familiar life threatens to transform into that most terrifying possibility: a surprise.

In The Bend of the World Philip K. Dick meets Michael Chabon, and Jacob Bacharach creates an appropriately hilarious, bizarre, and keenly observed portrait of life on the edge of thirty in the adolescent years of twenty-first-century America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Peter Morrison, the narrator of Bacharach’s debut, lives an untaxing life. He’s just shy of 30, and is a manager at Pittsburgh, Pa.–based Global Solutions where he surfs the Web all day from his cube. He’s dating Lauren Sara, a disaffected art student whose sculptures mostly resemble chairs. But then Peter’s idle world is shaken up. UFO sightings crop up all over Pittsburgh, and Peter sees one too, though he may have just been wasted. A shadowy Danish company may take over Global Solutions, leaving Peter’s cushy gig in question. And then there’s Johnny, Peter’s lifelong friend, who is spiraling out of control, with drug addictions and a fondness for conspiracy theories threatening to drive him into the arms of a local cult leader. To these tensions, Bacharach adds a playful satire of the Pittsburgh art scene, as well as recurrent references to Nazism, bigotry, and bigfoot. In the midst of all this chaos, Peter occasionally sneaks time to consider forging a more meaningful life for himself, though seldom makes much progress before getting dragged somewhere new—strip clubs, camping—all of which results in a fast-moving, scattered read. (Apr.)
Michael Cart - Booklist
“Bacharach’s surreal novel is inarguably amusing, a trippy exercise in ontology. But because alcohol is imbibed and drugs are ingested, the truth is both clear and unclear. So what is reality and what is imagined or, better, hallucinated? Ultimately, it’s left to the reader to decide, for it’s ambiguity that rules Peter’s world.”
Joshua Ferris
“You could be forgiven for calling Bacharach's voice otherworldly, but thankfully for us all it's wonderfully, warmly human. An excellent debut and a hell of a good story.”
Gary Shteyngart
“Ever wonder what would happen if The Mysteries of Pittsburgh were mugged in a dark alley by a cocaine-addicted Sasquatch? Well, wonder no more. Just buy this book and enjoy.”
James Wolcott
“Mighty strange doings in the Pittsburgh of Jacob Bacharach's mind-tripping debut novel The Bend of the World: a regular X-Files-a-go-go where yeti, UFOs, rumors of orgiastic rites, intimations of Mayan apocalypse, and 'psycho-temporal distortions' add that extra zing to the bustling night life…The Bend of the World in its biting, microcosmic portrait of our wackadoo republic makes me proud and ashamed to be an American but most of all happy to be a reader of Jacob Bacharach's—damn, is he sharp.”
Dan Chaon
“An audacious, hilarious, and aptly surreal satire of the state of America in this new, uncanny century, as well as a brilliant portrait of a new generation of fledgling adults. The Bend of the World will talk to the generation now approaching thirty in the way that Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburgh spoke to my own twenty-five year ago.”
Sam Lipsyte
“Jacob Bacharach has a great comic voice—shrewd, deadpan, and dirty—and The Bend of the World fears no weirdness. This should do Pittsburgh proud.”
Library Journal
Peter Morrison, the apathetic, 29-year-old scion of an old Pittsburgh family, spends his days not quite working at the nebulously named Global Solutions, where he is uncertain what his job actually entails or even the function of the corporation itself, which, rumor has it, will soon be acquired by a large multinational. At a high-society museum party he attends with his sort-of girlfriend, the artist Lauren Sara, to watch a "Swiss-German artist reenact the aesthetics of atrocity or something," he has a drunken encounter with a member of the corporate takeover team and suddenly finds his star on the rise. Meanwhile, the city of Pittsburgh is plagued by UFO sightings and a comically corrupt, scandal-ridden city government. Peter's best friend, Johnny, a crazed, drug-addled conspiracy theorist obsessed with the mysterious author Dr. Winston Pringle, may be the only one who knows the score. This is a corporate satire so intense that the corporation might literally be an alien culture. VERDICT The understated, conversational tone and deadpan humor in Bacharach's first novel make this an immensely entertaining read with a Vonnegut-like sensibility. [See Prepub Alert, 10/14/13.]—Lauren Gilbert, Sachem P.L., Holbrook, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Things fall apart when a slacker slouches his way through the vagaries of work and the phosphorescence of the Pittsburgh arts scene. Debut novelist Bacharach would probably like to remind readers of early Michael Chabon, but the only real pleasure in this shuffling zombie of a novel comes from his arch observations on the local art world. As with many postmodern novels for lads, the author simply can't decide what story he wants to tell. His narrator is almost-30-year-old Peter Morrison, a worker bee who's "manager of customer analytics and spend processes" at a company called Global Solutions, so much of the book is a workplace comedy. "No, I am serious: the office only crushes your soul if you're dumb enough to bring it to work," Peter tells the reader. In the evenings, he divides his time between his relationship with wispy Lauren Sara, to whom he's barely attracted, and drugging his way through the scene with his fey, gay best pal Johnny, a barely functioning addict who spends easily half the book espousing outlandish conspiracy theories about the city. "So basically the Point represents a node or a nexus of intense magical convergence, an axis mundi, if you will, wherein vast telluric currents and pranic energies roil just beyond the liminal boundaries between the phenomenal and the numinous branes of existence, and obviously this whole UFO what-have-you is a manifestation of that, not some fucking ball lightning or whatever," Johnny says during just one very representative rant. Yes, on the metaphysical side of the plot we have UFO sightings and a creature that might be Bigfoot and a rabbi who leads a cult and a science-fiction author making dangerous predictions, layering yet another level of weird on a story that's overstuffed as it is. Sprinkle on a famous artist, a powerful lawyer and his hypnotizing wife, and the book pitches itself right over the brink. A mischievous but fuzzy misadventure for modern 20-somethings.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871408143
  • Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 4/7/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 485,574
  • File size: 823 KB

Meet the Author

Jacob Bacharach is an arts administrator at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and manager of the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. He has a BA in English and creative writing from Oberlin College. He lives in Pittsburgh.
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