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In Steve Karas’ debut collection, an unemployed autoworker finds himself at an elite seminar for aspiring Santa Clauses; an IT specialist eagerly awaits the Mayan apocalypse in his parents’ basement as his father descends into dementia. Through fourteen curiously ambivalent studies, Karas methodically examines and reconfigures the core archetypes—dot-com entrepreneurs, hard-striving immigrants, obsessive diner owners—that haunt and dominate the American psyche. Their narratives, set against a dizzying panorama that stretches from the ruins of post-2008 Detroit to the desperate paradise of suburban Florida, evoke the familiar American mythology of army bases, Manhattan high-rises, and Midwestern video stores. Yet Karas’ masterful, minimalist portraits are ambiguous and tinged with uncertainty.
The winners, losers and hopeless visionaries who populate Kinda Sorta American Dream are united in their relentless quest to induce massive disruption in their lives—and their profound doubts about whether such radical change is possible.