The Book of Bunk
“…this vivid re-creation of smalltown Depression-era America enchants with its well-drawn characters, eloquent repartee, and poignant fantasia on a social experiment, which, if it didn’t play out this way, should have.”
“It’s as if Woody Guthrie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez had co-authored a 90000 word folk song…”
Paul Dent, penniless and recently orphaned, hops a train in deepest Dust Bowl Oklahoma in the Spring of 1936, and winds up attached to the Federal Writers’ Project, one of the least understood, shortest-lived, and most impossibly ambitious government undertakings in the history of the country. He is assigned to capture the essence of the mountain towns of eastern North Carolina for a series of travel books no one believes will ever be published. There, among writers and cheats, arsonists and Reconstructionists, blind and deaf children and disease-ridden Senators, Paul will meet the love of his life and her lover, witness the awakening of one great novelist and the possible resurrection of another, discover more than one America that could have been, and confront the truth about his relationship with his unpredictable, brilliant, and Machiavellian older brother.
There are echoes here of Laurel and Hardy, Bonnie and Clyde, Powell and Loy, Cain and Abel. It’s a book of bunk, in other words. A collection of lies. A creation myth about a vanished country that may or may not have existed, and the very real, conflicted nation that has sprung from it.
The Book of Bunk is the latest unclassifiable explosion of storytelling from Glen Hirshberg, the Shirley Jackson and International Horror Guild Award winning author of American Morons, The Two Sams, and The Snowman’s Children.
Reviews of The Book of Bunk:
“This brilliant and moving novel about family, betrayal, imagination, love and identity establishes Glen Hirshberg among our most profound and necessary writers – a novelist of the old school, a master.”
“The Book of Bunk is a ribald, tender, generous and mesmerizing river of American storytelling. You can swim in the smart, lush detail of the 1930’s, and the streams of vivid people in crises both tragic and picaresque. But the dueling Dent brothers are so passionate and dimensional that their hurtling momentum sweeps you away. The Book of Bunk is an amazing ride and a wonderful read.”
—Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
“In this lyrical meditation on the sustaining power of the imagination, an officer of the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project taps Okie hobo Paul Dent to contribute to the guide series documenting the American way of life in each of the 48 states. Off-loaded to Trampleton, N.C., in March 1936, Paul immerses himself in the local culture and becomes privy to fascinating oral anecdotes of the town’s social and racial history. He also takes part in the Buncombe (“Bunk”) County masquerade, a townwide indulgence in make-believe sponsored by a thinly disguised F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose skill at mythmaking clearly inspired Hirshberg (American Morons). Tragedy intervenes at the instigation of Paul’s older brother, Lewis, a political opportunist, but not before this vivid re-creation of smalltown Depression-era America enchants with its well-drawn characters, eloquent repartee, and poignant fantasia on a social experiment, which, if it didn’t play out this way, should have.”
“With an eye for period detail and a knack for creating mesmerizing characters, Hirshberg gives us a peek at a special time, in a special place. Grab a copy of the Earthling edition if you can find it, or buy The Book of Bunk once it’s been reprinted, as it surely will be if there’s any literary justice in the world.”
—Robert Morrish (review forthcoming in Cemetery Dance #66)
Advance praise for The Book of Bunk:
“Glen Hirshberg’s The Book Of Bunk is a miracle of narrative diversity and drive: Stories begetting stories begetting other stories yet that, after several hundred pages, confabulate a lyrical history. It’s as if Woody Guthrie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez had co-authored a 90000 word folk song about an obscure WPA project.”
“In The Book of Bunk, Glen Hirshberg takes us on a journey through Depression-era, small town America that is, in turns, whimsical and tragic, romantic and true. Hirshberg has an eye for the details of the 1930s that will put readers in mind of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, while the riveting sibling rivalry that plays out between the brothers Dent is nothing short of biblical. Bunk County is a place where many of us already live, if only we could admit it.”
—Sharon Pomerantz, author of Rich Boy
“The Book of Bunk is anything but, by turns powerful, sad, ecstatic, and, above all, a clear sign that the uniquely American novel is alive and well. I loved it.”
—Jeff Vandermeer, author of Finch