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‘A Faint Burn of Despair’
The Poet’s Wager by Andy Nowicki
© 2014 James LaFond
APR/29/14
2013, Counter-Currents Publishing, San Francisco, CA, Lost Violent Souls, pages 38-51
Andy Nowicki is a master at using beautifully crafted prose to illuminate the ugly, the painful and the agonized. Having read one novella and two shorts I am already tempted to declare him the master of postmodern angst. He’s gotten himself on my short list of authors I intend to read comprehensively. The Poet’s Wager is the story of Simon Pulaski, an English professor who has just lost his job at the crucial age of 40. This story is another piece in Andy’s literary puzzle that seems to be the disintegration of American culture as seen from the male perspective.
I know very little about Andy, but I must think that he has looked into the Polynesian experience with cultural ennui. In large measure, the warlike Polynesians were not conquered by Europeans but bought off. The result was a sad deterioration of their social self-image and a listless fading away in their own homelands. In Andy’s hands, rather than a portrait of a physically beautiful and spiritually crushed Tahitian girl, we are treated to the bought-and-paid for lich that remains of the mainstreamed American man.
In The Poet’s Wager we get something more than we did in Under the Nihil or Motel Man, we get a tortured glimmer of hope. Simon Pulaski has one last appointment with his psychiatrist scheduled before his health insurance cuts off. He speaks to his shrink of Hell, God and damnation, in a dialogue that reminds me of a discussion about ‘killing God’ acted by Michael Caine in the 1971 movie The Last Valley [reviewed on this site].
To give you the feel for this brilliant short here is a brief quote from page 44, “In this world, we all pretend, no matter who we are. This is the place of Pretend. Yet Reality is ever knocking on the door…”
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