Philip Gaber’s new anthology “Epic Sloth – Tales of The Long Crawl” yet again hits the mark with post-Postmodern American writing. There isn’t much of this sort of literature around any more and this stuff needs to exist. From Kerouac to Selby to Yates to Palahniuk, Gaber pulls together the sum of these writers to pour out anew what it means to be a young disillusioned man in today’s America.
There is a sure East Coast, self-effacing vibe to this writing, but there are tales set all over the US with all kinds of people involved. Young Americans seem to have become so self-assured; maybe through what counts as therapy these days, maybe because of the idea that anyone can “make it”.
Egos are ripe for the picking, especially for a single man in his prime looking for someone to love; the realm of women becomes insurmountable and expectations edgy and vast. Gaber mines the stretch of emotion between loneliness and need in the 21st century against a backdrop mired in unrealistic entitlement like no other writer I am reading at the moment.
This isn’t a book of short stories, although it is an anthology. Crafted in an almost beat style, Gaber wafts from situation to situation; sometimes high, sometimes low and always out. A snatch of a scene like a Schrader or a Cassavetes movie pulses across the page and as if the reader is a ghost in a room it shouldn’t be in, the turn of the page transports to a poem or another view in a different time or a different mind.
I should imagine this lack of investment in his characters is what may turn off commercial interest in Gaber’s work. I can almost hear the lit agent “advising” him to stick with one story idea and run with it for the duration of the book. The reader does become emtionally attached to the characters immediately because they are so well-crafted that within a paragraph I seem to know them too well. It’s not at all that they are stereotypes – this would be dumbing it down – but people I recognize somehow. And yet I have never known anyone like most of the characters in this book.
In fact the only way I can describe it is in relation to a book many people don’t know by an author called Rudolph Wurlitzer called “Nog”, which is a road tale, but also the narrator is crazy somehow never established, and the reader gets a snippet of the core of each person he meets in this same intimate way so that characters are instantly endearing. They just don’t make writers like that any more with the exception of Lionel Shriver in my opinion – and yet, here is Gaber, self-publishing probably because his focal talent has been misunderstood by the mainstream. But this is a new way of writing that could just quell the shortening attention spans of the social media generation looking for a quick sharp fix in literature. Get this straight – this is literary writing. This is a real book.
And it’s a brave way to write, and Gaber knows it. He’s unapologetic in his work, and plows deep into what he loves to describe, taking the idea of the unreliable narrator far and away. Gaber is probably a writer born in the wrong century because the quality here should have been recognized by an agent somewhere and in print and on every shelf in every bookstore. I can only hope this review stands as some kind of advice to anyone with the power to make that happen. Philip Gaber is one of the brightest writing talents around right now.
Buy this book, it could be the start of something new. Oh, and buy his other book, too.