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The Impossibly Hardcover – September 1, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Intrusion: A Novel
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A spy wanders through a strange series of interludes, attacks and interrogations as he struggles to decipher the identity of his potential assassin in Hunt's murky, obscure debut novel. It opens promisingly enough, with an unnamed narrator in several vaguely threatening encounters (including a romance with an unnamed woman) while staying in an unnamed city. He is reunited with an old friend named John, who in yet another nod to anonymity, gets involved with a woman named Deau. The four take a brief trip to the country in a series of scenes that make vague references to the spy's assignment and his status with his organization, concluding with a brief fight with John over the delivery of a package. The narrative drifts further from coherence as the book progresses, with the spy encountering a series of beautiful but often malevolent women who involve him in interrogations and continual random attacks while updating him on the "progress" of his assignment. The resolution is equally hazy and hallucinatory, describing the death of the spy's boss in a scene that seems quite disconnected from most of the earlier ones. Hunt's initial concept has promise he captures the tone of Paul Auster's City of Glass in the first few chapters, and he brings a decidedly Kafkaesque feel to the spy's early adventures. At times, his style evokes Beckett and Stein. But the rambling prose and the absence of plot make this a difficult, frustrating read, with Hunt writing the same scene with slight variations but no added illumination, story or character development. The result is an incomprehensible book that buries the talent of an intelligent and potentially intriguing writer.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

“Hunt is an intellect and a great spinner of claustrophobic noir plots, and his erudite gumshoe yarn owes as much to George Perec and Gertrude Stein as it does to Paul Auster.” —The Believer

“Every once in a long while, you discover a novel unlike anything else you’ve ever read. Laird Hunt’s debut is one of them. Innovative, comic, bizarre and beautiful.” —Time Out New York

“A fractured espionage story, John le Carré à la Borges.” —The Stranger

“For 200 pages, Hunt sustains an atmosphere of severe disorientation, packing his story with more curious and vaguely menacing strangers than a David Lynch movie. . . . The book’s many layers and difficult questions make it an ideal candidate for an adventurous book club.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Impossibly is one of the most exciting debut novels I have ever read. . . . While most Kafka comparisons are specious and overstated, Hunt’s subtle humor, sophisticated intelligence and the graceful timbre of his prose place this novel firmly in the tradition of The Castle, as well as Nabokov’s The Eye and Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser. This is high praise indeed, but The Impossibly is a marvelous, wonderful novel.” —Review of Contemporary Fiction

"[Laird Hunt] captures the tone of Paul Auster’s City of Glass in the first few chapters, and he brings a decidedly Kafkaesque feel to the spy’s early adventures.” —Publishers Weekly

“Hunt debuts with a stylish, if opaque, noir tale about a hit man who falls in love, takes a break, and incurs the wrath of his organization. . . . The mystery runs at all levels here, and the style and situation have appeal.” —Kirkus Reviews

The Impossibly, Laird Hunt’s first novel, is a challenging and inventive work, alternately chilling and humorous, that breaks new ground in the world of speculative fiction. Diffuse with noir tropes stripped of their origins, it leaves the reader with a map of the complicit mind trying to deal with perversity and adversity in a violent world.” —Rain Taxi Review of Books

“From the title to the last, dreamlike passage, Hunt’s novel is a deliberate, sometimes striking conundrum, one with its origins deep in the heart of traditional genres (in particular, hardboiled detective fiction and international spy thrillers), but with ambitions that extend into knotty problems of narrative, language, and meaning.” —American Book Review
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 215 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566891175
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566891172
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,402,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Hunt's narrator is a confused overweight dude who works for a criminal organization. He's always being given mysterious tasks by mysterious, violent people in mirrored sunglasses (the mirrors are a tip-off that these folks might at times be products of the narrator's mind -- perhaps, even, at some points, his mind after he's dead). Hunt's prose is smooth, witty, deadpan, but it's ruptured frequently by sudden flashbacks that are left purposefully unsignposted, so the texture of the writing remains even and glassy whle the timeframe it's describing wanders around wildly. I occasionally had to look back a few pages to remind myself where and how a particular tangent had begun, and I like having to do this when I read: it means I'm having to pay attention. Hunt may be using this device to describe the way we experience the world: our experience seems continuous, but it's made up of jarring swerves into memory and dream and, ultimately, death.
There's a love story amidst all this that I found quite moving. (In fact, I found the narrator's predicament moving throughout, despite its goofiness). The narrator's girlfriend is always wanting to acquire objects for which she does not know names. He provides the names, when he can: the objects she wants are usually oddly familiar things, like staplers. He finds all this charming, which makes sense, because he's trying to make sense out of the way his own perceptual reality is constructed. The girlfriend acquires what she learns names for, which is, again, a metaphor for the way we experience the world: we have access to that which we can name. In that way, in a familiar poststucturalist sense, our worlds are constructed out of language, and what we can "acquire" is limited by what we can talk about.
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By A Customer on November 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Impossibly is the best book that I have read this year: in fact, it is the best book that I've read since enjoying Georges Perec, Harry Mathews, Melville, David Markson, Proust, Kafka, or Paul Auster.
What is wonderful about The Impossibly is that there are no other books like it: a rare claim in a world of increasingly formulaic and patronising novels. It is a book which is both extremely erudite and extremely simple: the mysterious plot, the author's witty asides, existential bewilderment, intellectual playfulness, and obvious mastery of the art of writing combine to make a work which is a joy from start to finish.
The Impossibly achieves the impossible: a completely thrilling fusion of accessible popular fiction and challenging, stimulating art.
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Format: Hardcover
The Impossibly is a stunning debut novel by Laird Hunt that is dark, contradictory, and utterly compelling. When The Impossibly's anonymous narrator bungles an assignment for his shadowy employers, everyone and everything in his life turns around to double cross him or stand by him. The narrator must navigate an unnamed European city, unraveling the mystery and enlisting the reader as a detective in order to identify the assassins that seek to exterminate him. Dry, deadpan prose characterizes this fascinating, original mystery.
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Format: Hardcover
Reads like Kafka as if written by Donald Barthelme - obscure and frustrating, yet breezy and ironic. The review from Publishers Weekly complains that "the absence of plot make[s] this a difficult, frustrating read," but that misses the point - the difficulties of The Impossibly are intentional, and are worth the effort - the book is intelligent, funny, and beautifully written.
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