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By Lawrence Krauser, McSweeney's (2000)
In the beginning there was Dave Eggers. And Eggers wrote A Heartbreaking
Work of Staggering Genius, and it was good. And from the mind of Eggers
sprang McSweeney's, the semiquarterly literary magazine, as well
as the somewhat more regularly published Web site www.mcsweeneys.net.
And from McSweeney's Volume 2 came an excerpt of playwright Lawrence
Krauser's first novel, Lemon. And now, finally, we have Lemon
itself. And it is good. And so terribly strange.
Lemon, for which Krauser has individually ink-scribbled the slipcovers
of all 10,000 extant copies, follows the slow decline of Wendell, a memoist
for a company run by the heirs of Buckminster Fuller. He is dumped by
his girlfriend following an epistolary exchange in which he complains,
"If our relationship were the history of music, then we have not
evolved beyond Mozart." Things go downhill from there. A pinched
nerve paralyzes half of Wendell's face. He has to wear an eye patch. His
apartment deteriorates. His friends, who serve as the foil to his increasingly
disintegrating life, are smug in their normalcy. And then this lemon turns
Let us be frank: Wendell transfers his affections from girlfriend to lemon.
Let us be more frank: he eventually--and I am not sure how to describe
this to you--has sex with it. He loses his job. His parents freak out.
His friends do likewise. His boss terms him a "citrussexual."
He has many thoughtful moments about what it constitutes to be a "thing,"
and if to love one is so very strange. Yes, it is. But then again, maybe
Lemon is mostly prose, but Krauser occasionally breaks into limerick as
well as into one long poem that turns out to be more or less a History
of the Lemon Since the Beginning of the Universe. Every now and then,
the text veers into digressions on the role of lemons in art, the lemon-shaped
dome in architecture, the cultural significance of yellow. On first read,
Krauser's narrative style can be oblique, occasionally almost Yoda-like;
you have to peer through the words to see the story beneath. But on second
read, it's perfectly lucid, and when it is good, it is so very, very good.
"Love, or the word love, is like an elusive jungle bird that because
it is so durable has thousands of mimics and camouflaged neighbors,"
Krauser writes. And later, "The heart is not a loony mess of gloopy
flaps and percolating snailations, it is a lively gob of joyful leaping-forward/
diving back. More glossy than matte, it is all of a piece, break-dancing
master of the house, the liveliest spot in the body."
Lemon is a book for sour times, when the hero is a grotesque, and
love is a very bitter fruit.