Jacob Bacharach, “The Bend of the World” (2014) (read aloud by the author) – This was a pretty entertaining, agreeable, somewhat forgettable humor novel. Jacob Bacharach is a weird twitter habitue and entertaining guest on lefty podcasts, or was back when I listened to those more. He’s one of those small/mid-size city dudes who is all in on his small/mid-size city, in his case, Pittsburg. The main character – I’m behind on reviews and forget his name, it doesn’t really matter – is a young corporate drone from a rich family who’s wasting his life on noncommittal relationships, jobs, and priorities in general.
He then has a weird year! He meets a disturbingly fascinating couple, a bold young man and a tragic alcoholic sexy artist lady, at a party, the same night he sees some UFOs! The main character has been on the fringe of conspiracy stuff for most of life due to his best friend, Johnny (yes, I did sometimes imagine him as Johnny from “The Room,” but the author reads this in his own, non-Wiseauesque voice so it didn’t happen too often). Johnny is a gay, drug-addicted conspiracy theorist, which, if I remember Bacharach’s podcast appearances, is not too dissimilar to Bacharach himself as a teenager/young man. Johnny believes Pittsburg is the center of a massive conspiracy involving Nazis, time-tunnels, summoning alternate dimensons, and bigfoots.
The main character doesn’t really believe in all this stuff and alternately humors Johnny and tries to save Johnny from himself, his drug problems and tendency to annoy powerful Pittsburgers. Meanwhile, the dude from the compelling couple gets a job at the main character’s pointless company and offers to make the main character a soulless corporate shark like himself. Is this company, and the weird guy in particular, part of a big conspiracy? Maybe THE big conspiracy? It’s hard to say. The main character interacts with the art world, his family, his hippy artsy girlfriend and more serious tragic drunk artist second love interest.
Bacharach evokes an agreeable atmosphere of confusion as to what, exactly, the big Nazi/time-traveller/Pittsburg/bigfoot conspiracy is, intermingling it with a lot of shit both weird and mundane, but this does have the effect (especially when combined with my review backlog) of making me forget whether the conspiracy WAS real or not, and what exactly it was. At some point, the main character and the drunk sexy artist have to strike out into Appalachian Pennsylvania to save Johnny from the main theorist of the big conspiracy, who turns out to have weird designs of his own. There’s showdowns at a big weird drug/orgone party in the woods, complete with possibly-drug-induced visions of beneficient Bigfoots. In the end, some people die, and the main character decides to ditch corporate whatever and become… a landlord?! Well… this might have been before Bacharach made his turn all the way left, he was right-libertarian leaning as a young drug-addled semi-ironic conspiracy theorist… but that’s a minor point. I was worried it was going to take the path of “guy meets a weird alpha man’s man who leads him to uncomfortable discoveries,” ala “Fight Club,” “The Red Pill,” and I feel a fair number of zeitgeisty works from the last thirty years or so. That doesn’t happen! Stuff does happen, but usually without much sense of stakes. That’s not the worst thing in the world. This was pretty fun, somewhat forgettable- some of the things that might have made it less forgettable might have made it less fun, if you get what I mean. ****