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Amerikan Krazy Hardcover – February 22, 2016
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For more than forty years a mystique has surrounded Henry James Korn's writing, but I won’t repeat the praise heaped on his short fiction, creative nonfiction, and experimental writing since the 1970’s by authors, critics, and culture analysts. Suffice it to say that those lucky enough to have shared Korn's surrealistic visions have long thought of him as among America’s most under-appreciated writers, as well as an author from whom a sustained work of imagination has long been anticipated. Amerikan Krazy fulfills the complex promise of Korn’s earlier work, from the festive critical irrationality of The Pontoon Manifesto and Proceedings of the National Academy of the Avante Garde to the thoughtful sincerity of Muhammad Ali Retrospective.
If Korn's short stories collected in Exact Change and A Difficult Act To Follow were playful and touching, Amerikan Krazy is all that and unpredictably powerful too. Be careful. This book might deliver a jolt of searing rearrangement to your understanding of the roles of government, business, and entertainment in the United States, along with a hard-to-shake suspicion that the political history closest to us is one we don't understand. Amerkan Krazy shows us two central characters who come of age in the 1960’s and never recover from their choices. Will you empathize with Dutch Heindel’s murderously rebellious cynicism? Or with Herb Horn's idealism that survives only because of a delusion so strong it tempts him to contemplate an assassination? And where can we run to when we learn that Mickey Mouse and Bongo the Bear are tools of a heartless twentieth century mind-control experiment?
Korn’s narrative strategy focusing on the politics of pop culture is seductive. Who didn’t like Ike? And who can help but sympathize with little Herb Horn who loved cartoons and the news and convinced his antagonistic parents to vote for JFK. But Herb’s will to goodness gets him in big trouble when he uses his college newspaper to call Lyndon Baines Johnson a murderer, and he’s never not in trouble again – except maybe when he’s high – until he makes a final agonizing payment on the dreams that sustained him through a damaged life of relentless insights into what’s actually going on behind the scenes.
--Carol Soucek King
I would guess that this book will be one of those that people either love or hate on the whole. Partly because of the over-the-top trippy aspect of the writing and partly because of reader's political/social/cultural leanings. I do think that even those who might not agree with the assessment that comes through in this satire will be given a lot to think about if they are willing to do so. If they aren't willing to do so then I have a pretty good idea who they may be voting for in 2016.
This isn't an easy read if one actually engages with the book simply because Korn illustrates what we are then supposed to ponder. If we simply read passively and expect epiphanies then we will be disappointed, our task in this novel is to engage and think. Korn's task seems to be to keep the story moving along. So it is up to us to slow down and engage. Whether you agree with what is presented or not the reward for engaging will be great.
I would recommend this to all Americans and for those in other countries who are curious about the unique form of American insanity they are seeing in the news and where it came from.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
A dystopic Amerika, replete with Orwellian authoritarianism, social conformity, and thought control, gives rise to an underground resistance bent on bringing down the system. But how? (Read the book.)
Baby Boomers who remember the terror of nuclear war promulgated in the 1950s will relish the evocation of those feelings and experiences by author and cultural critic Henry Korn. We remember where we were when Kennedy was assassinated. Then there was the televised horror of the Vietnam War. These experiences traumatize protagonist Herb Horn and serve as catalyst for his quest for sex, truth, and authenticity.
The novel is a compendium of cultural references and plays on words that make for satisfying and entertaining reading. The writing provoked sparks of recognition paragraph after paragraph.
Amerikan Krazy reads like a counter culture moral-political manifesto in the vein of a surrealistic Bob Dylan song. For the Millennial generation, this book may aid with understanding a previous generation still suffering from mass trauma. Non-stop humor keeps the message accessible.