Did anyone believe the ruse? Did anyone seriously think that David Wilson had found tapes
left by a collegiate swimmer in a trombone case in an attic apartment? That he had transcribed those tapes and put the text on-line as a blog, put the songs up as downloadable files? I didn't, but that's because David Wilson is a friend of mine. We were both students in John Kessel's first grad-level creative writing workshop. I had been tipped off. Yet I wondered and still wonder if anyone was
If that particular deception didn't work, the one that does work is this: the book, THE ORPHAN
, is deceptively simple. This novel rewards a close reading with many discrete joys of discovery, doled out like candy, or like hard drugs. The young narrator, Claude Coltlan, (odd name, huh?) starts out as a thoughtful innocent, prone to analyzing the weird changes he's going through. Like Alice, his tale really begins when he goes down a rabbithole, or actually down a black staircase and through a funhouse tunnel. He falls in with a group of townies (mostly musicians) as well as a dissipated professor, acquires the new moniker "Speed," and the tale rolls on from there. But this is no standard coming-of-age novel. A year told in flashback, Speed's twenty-first year, from the first pages we know that: "Art is dead. Jenny's in rehab." That's the target waiting at the end of the timeline, but no arrow flies straight, as Speed himself would tell you. His path, his quest, through a gritty world of drugs and rock and roll (and sex), is full of classical twists and turns, veils and revelations.
I don't want to type any more. I want you to read this book and have those joys of discovery yourself.