A hustler searches for truth in a dystopian Boston, in this novel of “comically elaborate twists and turns of plot [and] broad social satire” (Robert Coover, bestselling author of The Public Burning).
An abandoned child hustles on the streets of a dystopic, near-future Boston in the aftermath of the Great Devaluation, as squatters have turned the tunnel system into an underground hive known as Dig City. During an elaborate search for his unknown parents, Eddie narrates his adventures as a street performer, pickpocket, adoptee, casino employee, and, finally, commander of the subterranean revolution. . . .
“Takes its cue from William S. Burroughs, Philip K. Dick, Charles Dickens, Jack Kerouac, and Tom Robbins. This may be the first postapocalyptic novel in which the apocalypse was created by a public works project, Boston’s Big Dig, which is currently in its second decade . . .
Misdirection and game theory flesh out this funny and surprising book.” —Library Journal
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Don’t ask me where I come from. I myself should never have asked. The question has gotten me into all sorts of trouble. I should have just kept driving that excursion bus between casinos, playing video games in Paramus, showing off for throw money on the Common, pulling purses and picking pockets across the Beast. The problem is, the question asked me. Every morning as a child I awoke with that eerie refrain. It looped in my head until the hour I distracted myself with the butterflies of a sidewalk show, the heart race of a snatch-and-chase. Each day the volume amplified until finally, even after lunch and an afternoon full of distractions, the question would not ebb, but instead, by the time my voice began cracking, found itself spoken out loud in front of Shep. Shep, a sightless hustler from Southie, was my makeshift Fagin, my only pal. He trained the youngest by pretending grift was a game, supplying his own billfold. If Shep detected promise then off you went, an independent contractor in his ranks of sticky-fingered freelancers.
As a toddler, I appeared barefoot and blinking at his rat’s nest and Shep tapped me for a more conspicuous routine. “What can you do?” The rest of the road rats, witnessing my mute reaction, laughed uproariously. Shep reached out to see what was up. He could not believe his hands. I had screwed legs up behind shoulders, crossed ankles at the back of my neck, and left fabulous feet flapping above my head. “Holy cow!” said Shep, squeezing, “they’re thick as tenderloins!” I can’t remember where I learned that early trick, but my performance proves I already knew the props were show-worthy. My feet were, in fact, huge, but as an infant I was unashamed. They seemed separate, like shoes, although I knew they were not removable. They were two long dogs that followed me everywhere I went.
A true scavenger, Shep kept a mental index of everything he had ever picked out of the trash. He sent a veteran rat to go fetch an old pair of enormous sports shoes from his dumpsterdive archive. My eyes lit up. They were so oversized they might have belonged to a circus clown. Bright red fabric uppers extended all the way to laced high-tops. Red ankles bore emblems commemorating a long lost Century-20 legend whose legacy had likely been buried beneath a host of successors’ in the annals of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Here at the apex of retro footwear the name remained conspicuously inscribed in stitched script: Chuck Taylor. It was a perfect fit. Shep showed me how to tie them and I took them for a spin, divulging my nearsightedness by bumping into the wall. Belying blindness, Shep had selected optometry for a hobby. He memorized charts and dispensed from his sidewalk stand of looted lenses by correlating chart readings with drawers organized by prescription. Shep set me up with a pair of thick, vintage frames. The glasses, together with the sneakers, made our Cinderella story complete.
From the start, we enjoyed a filial rapport, Shep with his tactile acuity and me with my phenomenal flexibility. Flipping bottle caps back and forth at our first rehearsal, we shared a natural rhythm, syncopated and contrapuntal. Shep sightless and threadbare; I, nearsighted and, by my infancy, effectively deaf and dumb: Together we had just the right chemistry for street theater.
Earlier that day, one of the rats had pilfered a case of ginseng juice. Shep counted the empties he had amassed, decided to call me Eddie for eight, and we began feeling our way through a rudimentary routine.
What People are Saying About This
Robert Arellano leads us through a maze of playful language and
hairpin plot twists to a realm where myth mutates like cells bombarded by
radiation all with a showman’s touch for making the familiar world seem
strange and a strange world vivid.
(Stacey Richter, author of My Date with Satan)
Fast Eddie is a down-and-out underground fable. It's a
tight close-up, mile-a-minute monkey cam, filled with more wordplays and puns
than an Eminem rap.
(Arthur Nersesian, author of The Fuck-Up and Manhattan Loverboy)
A lively and imaginative 21st-century parody of the Victorian novel of the foundling in search of his true parents, complete with comically elaborate twists and turns of plot, broad social satire, and a rich cast of characters. Fast Eddie’s a lot of fun.