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Against the Country
by Ben Metcalf


Overview - NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY VULTURE AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR - Against the Country is a gift for fans of Southern Gothic and metafiction alike. Set in the Virginia pines, and overrun with failed parents, racist sex offenders, cast-off priests, and suicidal chickens, this novel challenges literary convention even as it attacks our national myth--that the rural naturally engenders good, while the urban breeds an inevitable sin.  Read more...

 
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More About Against the Country by Ben Metcalf
 
 
 
Overview
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY VULTURE AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR - Against the Country is a gift for fans of Southern Gothic and metafiction alike. Set in the Virginia pines, and overrun with failed parents, racist sex offenders, cast-off priests, and suicidal chickens, this novel challenges literary convention even as it attacks our national myth--that the rural naturally engenders good, while the urban breeds an inevitable sin.

In a voice both perfectly American and utterly new, Ben Metcalf introduces the reader to Goochland County, Virginia--a land of stubborn soil, voracious insects, lackluster farms, and horrifying trees--and details one family's pitiful struggle to survive there. Eventually it becomes clear that Goochland is not merely the author's setting; it is a growing, throbbing menace that warps and scars every one of his characters' lives.

Equal parts fiery criticism and icy farce, Against the Country is the most hilarious sermon one is likely to hear on the subject of our native soil, and the starkest celebration of the language our land produced. The result is a literary tour de force that raises the question: Was there ever a narrator, in all our literature, so precise, so far-reaching, so eloquently misanthropic, as the one encountered here?

Praise for Against the Country

"Iconoclastic . . . Against the Country has obvious affinities to Southern Gothic, both in its voice and in the delight it takes in rural ignorance and grotesqueries. . . . A] country cousin of David Foster Wallace."--The New York Times Book Review

"Exceptional in its verbal brilliance and conscientiousness, Against the Country involves us in a family's anguished and hilarious struggle against the strange dooms that seem peculiar to white rural America. This is a savage and gladdening novel."--Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland and The Dog

"Metcalf's unnamed narrator dazzles with his Puritan deadpan and capacious intellect, not to mention his double-barreled blasts of dark humor and wicked satire. . . . There are so many brilliant turns of phrase in Against the Country that it's hard to choose favorites, but Metcalf is at his sharpest and most seductive when his antihero does more than blast and blame, when he steps outside his sermons to say something real. . . . Every note in every solo is sounded with exquisite perfection."--Slate

"Faulknerian . . . eccentric, magnificent Southern Gothic metafiction."--Vanity Fair

"Ben Metcalf is a brilliant writer, and Against the Country is an ingenious and hilarious novel, a glittering, bitter celebration of how the lousiness of life can be redeemed in the hands (and mouth) of a top-shelf teller of life's stories."--Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask and The Fun Parts

"A daring conglomeration of every trick, swindle and gimmick possible using only ink and paper, a pulpwood imagination machine so finely and expertly wrought that it can take on Jefferson, Thoreau, the church, patriotism, race relations, sexual identity, J. D. Salinger, the myth of America and a thousand other targets . . . Against the Country] is absolutely and completely worth all investment of time and effort, because it is an undeniably beautiful object, sharp as a new razor."--NPR

"One of the more necessary--and most eloquent--expressions of a distinctly American, provincial rage in some years."--Flavorwire

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781400062690
  • ISBN-10: 1400062691
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Publish Date: January 2015
  • Page Count: 328
  • Dimensions: 1 x 5.75 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age
Books > Fiction > Family Life

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-11-03
  • Reviewer: Staff

Metcalf, essayist and former literary editor of Harper’s, debuts with a virtuosic tour de force of Southern malfeasance. The largely plotless narrative records a rural boyhood in Goochland County, Va., the narrator’s relationship with his ever-vengeful father, and the rigors of farm-life. Sprawling and underpopulated, Goochland is the setting for the indignities of grade school, boozy first love, rejection of “the killer-God idea,” and salvation in literature. But even amid the requisite episodes of racial disharmony and religious fervor, Metcalf’s storytelling often digresses, and, in short sections with titles like “I Feared the Corn,” he obsesses over every particular of the land. From blackberries, chickens, and ringworm to meditations on Jehovah’s Witnesses and an appendix on dogs, the all-American life is lovingly deconstructed in a passionate screed that feels like a confession from the tortured heart of the South itself. But even in envying Thomas Jefferson “his idyllic hallucinations” and damning “this flytrap of a county,” Metcalf composes a relentlessly articulate paean to the American project. In the end, this isn’t a Southern novel, because it isn’t exactly a novel. It’s more like man’s revenge on God for the world he made—and anyone who disagrees must be a Yankee. (Jan.)

 
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