This book was written by my friend Ray. I haven't seen Ray in maybe 30 years, since we worked together at a bookstore on the drag. Truth be told, we only hung out a few times that I remember, though to be fair, there's a lot that I don't remember from that period of my life. I haven't always been the sober guy doing Qigong every morning that I am now, in my late middle age. But Ray is one of those people that I instantly and deeply connected with, a kindred spirit, a lifer, someone for whom art and life are inseparable. I loved our rambling conversations and the way he noticed my quirks. I have no doubt the next time I talk to him we'll pick up right where we left off. So I was delighted when his novel popped up in my Facebook feed.
What would I think of this book If I didn't know Ray? It's impossible to say, but I bet if I had just come across it in a bookstore and opened it at random I might well have bought it. "Damn," I would have thought, "this bastard's been reading my mail."
It's not an easy book to describe. It's probably not for everyone. But if you are the kind of person who has read more than one novel by William S Burroughs and made it all the way through Rushdie's Satanic Diaries, and don't need everything explained in the in the end, I think you'll definitely dig it.
It's the tale of a restless, self destructive, underachieving misfit who sees too much of what's going on around him and digs himself into a rut, slogging away at a crap night job, self-medicating, holing up, crippled by a deep loathing of both himself and the American dystopia.
I should mention that his job is driving around a truck that manufactures snow because the government and/or industry have decreed that every day is Christmas. One of the things I love about it is the strange centrality of the snow, a sort of mandated denial of the ugliness buried beneath it. A byproduct of the snow is a nasty drug called Icine that may be deliberately dumped on the populace.
The Snowman is a white guy, but all the guys on his snow-making crew are from south of the border. The city he lives in is called Osberg; Austinites will recognize their hometown through a distorted funhouse mirror. The snow stops right at the border with Mexico, on the Frio Grande. Some of the most powerful stuff is about Mexicans coming north, into the cold, (it's still brutally hot in Mexico) and suffering wretched conditions and abuse while doing the work Americans don't want to do.
The snowman's friendship with one of these guys, the enigmatic Margarito, is the axis around which the densely swirling narrative spins, but sometimes the focus breaks that orbit and one of my very favorite scenes is that of an old Mexican woman ruminating on her life.
Did I mention that the Snowman is endlessly, surreptitiously, filmed by a megalomaniacal director named Boone? Or else perhaps he's hallucinating the whole thing... I like that because I think the media sludge we have all been floating down our whole lives has infected our minds to the degree that even our dreams reek of video. You can turn off your TV, but there's no getting away from it. It's in your head now.
So this was a real pleasure. I look forward to reading Ray's other novel and talking about them with him when I next visit Texas. It's deeply gratifying that he has stayed true to himself and produced something substantial and impressive. I hope more people read it than listen to my CDs, haha.
You can get it at Malvern booksin Austin, or off Amazon. If you're in Austin, get it at Malvern. If it hadn't been for them promoting Ray's book reading in their store, I never would have heard about it.