Usually when I write about a book it is to unconditionally recommend it to my friends here. But in the case of one I recently finished, Hell of a Book by Jason Mott, copyright 2021, I want to be more cautious. I really appreciated the novel, but I suspect that many would not. Hence my “not exactly a recommendation” title.
I generally avoid books that have any quasi supernatural elements. I find that they add little to the plot and are often just flourishes to show off the skill of the writer. But in the case of this particular novel, Mott has found a way through a character The Kid, who may or may not be real, to serve a deeper purpose. The author of the story tours the United States to promote his book called, amusingly enough Hell of a Book. Not until the very end do we even learn the substance of the narrative.
The book manages to send up current book promotion madness and to simultaneously explore dynamics of race in the United States. The satire reminds me more of Jonathan Swift than any other writer, biting and insightful. Mott also riffs on Ralph Ellison’s title The Invisible Man, contending that it is impossible for a black man to be invisible no matter how hard he tries.
Sometimes the best way to tackle a notoriously difficult subject such as race and the murder of innocent black citizens is sideways instead of head on. Mott manages to do just that without my ever feeling that he was showing off. Rather he was using the best of fiction techniques to make several lasting points.
If you do read it, let me know what you think.