|About the Book|
For a small town midwestern boy like Mickey Plymouth, the world is a very big place. The center of his world is comprised of intimates like his girlfriend Jane Finn and his best friend Johnny Walker. The borders are bounded by the outer degrees ofMoreFor a small town midwestern boy like Mickey Plymouth, the world is a very big place. The center of his world is comprised of intimates like his girlfriend Jane Finn and his best friend Johnny Walker. The borders are bounded by the outer degrees of people in his life, people like Jane Finns ex-boyfriend Karel Wenckebach and the out-of-work filmmaker Bonar Snodgrass. Then there are those living far outside the furthest limits of his imagination. These people are the relation of center to boundary in the world of a young man who can identify neither as his native land.In Relative Chill, the story of Mickey Plymouth begins in an apartment in Fairfield, Indiana that he shares with his soon to be ex-fiance, Regine Olsen. He has broken off their engagement to move in with Jane Finn, a woman of exciting and nearly dangerous qualities who inspires in him the spirit of adventure. Jane Finn explains her life to Mickey during a series of conversations at bars in Fairfield, relating for him the story of the collective involvements that led up to the nervous breakdown she suffered in Chicago right before being returned to Fairfield by her parents in order to provide her with treatment.Jane Finn soon proves to be more than adventurous: she is surrounded on all sides by a host of shady characters, not the least of whom is her sometime sexual partner, Ilsa Koch. The battle of wills that seems to be at the heart of their relationship extends in manipulation to those unfortunate enough to be involved with them, a social register that includes a host of emotional recruits to their psychological intrigues. When Mickey and Jane relocate to Chicago, the game is on, Mickey Plymouth is quickly introducedto a world where love is the most coveted social commodity, for which people are willing to risk it all, not the least of which is their very lives. Each risks madness in the ruthless games of love that mirrors the heartless power relations of the society in which they live. Everything, including the claim to live life free of fear from persecution, and even the right to continued survival, is relative.The language of Relative Chill is a reflection of this turbulent psychological and emotional landscape, reaching out from nouns employed as adjectives, and sentences truncated to the effect of a sterile poetic rhythm which evoke images of the ossuary, of life stripped to its bones and forced somehow to animate. The horizons of significance against which this primordial struggle are conducted fade, but never quite manage to be extinguished and, as such, the story at times nearly falls prey to the incoherence of the impossibility of being told without ever quite completely losing its grip. At times seemingly impossible, frustrating, bone-crushingly vast and exhaustive in its search for a living redemption. Relative Chill is a story that laughs at racism and romantic betrayal without ever succumbing to pabulum or prescription in the place of poetry. More art than artifice, there are sentences here that could be meditated on for days.The story is written in the voice of a narrator trying to make sense of a world where corruption and fraud are the only forces of self-defense available. Reminiscent of Sartres Nausea, or Dostoevskys Notes From Underground, with the exception of the generally prevailing third person omniscient viewpoint. Relative Chill barely veils a psyche stripped ofits fortifications. We are told the story from both outside and inside the minds of every character involved, and at times from the perspective of a personified principle of belief, delivering its final soliloquy before being marched off to execution. There is a hollow center that runs throughout, in reflection of this struggle for terra firma where none exists. The quest for a Holy Grail gets retold here in terms of a desperate search for an objective reality from behind which to fend off the psychic assault of a culture internalized to the point of self-evidence, a culture at a time when it is violently and mercilessly at war with itself.