“The world is getting hotter, the ice caps are melting, because man keeps saying to nature, Hey, our whole idea of a cozy future is to have jobs. That’s all we’ve got planned. What’s more, we will pursue this aim at any cost, even, paradoxically, if it means the eventual destruction of our workplace. Man says, Sacrifice industry and economy and jobs? For what? Future generations? I don’t even know those guys! I’ll tell you something for free ― it makes me ashamed that our species, which is so finely ennobled by its sacrifices, winds up sacrificing it all for the wrong things and comes off looking like a race of people who like to use their hair dryer while taking a bath . . . Yes, the truth of the matter is there has yet to be a great democratic nation because there has yet to be a great bunch of people.”
So runs a sample from Steve Toltz’s debut novel, A Fraction of the Whole, which, from the excerpts I’ve read, is galloping, ranty, colorful. It’s also, according to some background materials, a dysfunctional family story, a funny-serious take-down of media and politics, a delve into the human psyche, and an articulation of “the near-impossibility of living sincerely amidst other people.” For more of a taste, watch a haunting little video on Toltz’s Australian publisher’s web site.
Comparisons to the Pessls and Shteyngarts and Safran Foers have started (don’t hold it against him?). And the backstory to the writing sounds like a novel itself ― the Australian Toltz wrote the novel while living in Europe, above acrobats in Barcelona, sharing a studio in Paris, and the book arrived on an editor’s desk wholly unsolicited.
Toltz reads from A Fraction of the Whole this coming Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 18, at 7 pm at Brookline Booksmith.