Thomas Beller on Karoo

A few things about Karoo

It is written in the first person present.

It's author, Steve Tesich, wrote the screenplay for Breaking Away which, for some reason, I love.

Karoo is about the consciousness of a bastard, a drinker, a bad father, a stumbler through New Years Day parties in The Dakota, but a benign and in a way a rather lovable bastard who has become afflicted with a disease: he no longer is able to get drunk, even though he drinks a lot.

There is a plot. It is about running into an old flame, about an actress, about a movie but it is entirely beside the point. The point is that the writing is exciting.

Here is a random sample:

This is a new disease I have picked up. I don't know what to call it. It could either be called a subjectivity disease or an objectivity disease, depending on how you look at it.

The symptoms are always the same.

Despite my nauseating preoccupation with myself, that self seems to slip away rather easily. Try as I might, I am unable to remain subjective about anything for very long. An hour or so, a day or so, a couple of days at best, and my subjectivity leaves me and I move on to begin observing the event in question from some other point of view.

I don't do it on purpose. My mind simply moves on and starts to orbit the event.

The event can be a person, an idea, an issue, a heartbreaking letter from my son.

This book is full of short abrupt sentences, and terse little paragraphs of a length one might find in a tabloid, and yet it is somehow a magically linguistic book, its syntax has music, it hops and pops.

I go and pull it off the bookshelf sometimes, just to peruse it and to get jazzed by the language. I go and look at it just for these little language vitamin moments, and then just today I went and looked at it on Amazon. It had been a very ignored book on account of the author dying before it was published. But there on Amazon was a steady stream of excited praise for this book. Karoo. I recommend it highly.