September 27, 2012
The Alligators of Abraham, Robert Kloss (Mud Luscious Press, November 2012)
I’m excited for so many books this fall and winter that I couldn’t even begin to list them all—it would take another book to do it. But this review is about a book that I am so excited for that I can hardly stand it, so here’s a sort of a save-the-date about The Alligators of Abraham, by Robert Kloss. It’s coming out in November from Mud Luscious Press, and it’s a novel that can best be described, I think, as a nightmare about the Civil War. It’s much more than just a Civil War book, though: It’s a book that takes the madness and the crippled conscience of a nation and rips that apart like a festering, open wound. Kloss peers inside, like some kind of mad historian, and records all the best and the worst of us with a passion and sometimes prophetic fervor.
One of the things I love so much about this book, and about Kloss’s writing in general: Although it’s rife with horror and dread, it contrasts those elements beautifully with scenes of the greatest love and sacrifice and longing, so that we more fully understand exactly what has been lost. There are so many poignant scenes here, including some of the best moments imagined between Lincoln and his sons. Lincoln himself (in contrast to what promises to be a dreadful caricature in the Spielberg Oscarfest coming out this winter) is a dignified mystery, a figure of great sorrow and pity but also a certain mercilessness, a father figure reflecting the spirit of his age and hovering over it like some devastating angel.
With Lincoln come some of the greatest moments of pathos, but we also have all of our Civil War history pulled down from the lofty monuments and dragged down into the dust where it belongs. We have the fury of the poor and the callousness of the wealthy, those who hired others to fight in their place and those who profited from the war. We have the mixed motives on both sides, the bloodthirst behind the patriotism, and yes, we have alligators, and in multitudes they come like a biblical plague. Kloss’s writing is full of alligators, and I think it’s pointless to look for meaning in these creatures in his books. I think they work as his own personal sort of deus ex machina, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I think Kloss decides when his disgust with his characters has reached a sort of fever pitch, he sends in the alligators to sweep them away. Like locusts, plague, floodwaters—these creatures scour away the old and give Kloss room to bring in the hope of the new. And it’s fun to read.
Alligators and Lincoln and disaster and violence aplenty and I haven’t even mentioned the look of this book. Matt Kish, the artist who did Moby-Dick in Pictures, did the cover and the interior illustrations and the whole thing is a gorgeous package that you’ll want to own. If you’re a fan of inspired writing, fantastic artwork, and American history with a fiendish twist, get yourself a copy of this book. Pre-order it here today.
Amber Sparks’s fiction has been widely published online and in print. Her debut short story collection, May We Shed These Human Bodies, is just out from Curbside Splendor Press. She lives with her husband and two beasts in Washington, DC, or alone online at Twitter @ambernoelle or at www.ambernoellesparks.com.