Friday, January 10, 2014

Wirth Cauchon Lights Nothing On Fire

There is a brutish rawness to Nothing by Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon that not everyone will appreciate. And then it is coupled with dense and heavy writing, making an otherwise short novel feel deceptively long. It's contemporary fiction that emulates Kerouac, but with none of his freedom.

Wirth Cauchon writes about characters who are trapped instead. Much like being near a Wyoming forest fire, the air inside Nothing is dark and thick with smoke. The lack of quotation marks makes it all the more claustrophobic. And the people who populate it live on the fringe of society, stuck inside their own self-absorbed existence.

Wirth Cauchon teeters back and forth between two. Ruth is a self-exiled twenty-something from Minnesota, living in Missoula, Montana, on some dwindling reserves and the generosity of friend Bridget. James is a wanderer who stole his stepfather's gun and a wad of cash to track down his biological father.

Neither character is likable, but their authenticity is like picking a scab. 

The story takes place in Missoula during the fire season. The eminent threat of a fire closing in on the town sets the tone of the book. There is the constant throb of an ever-present threat that everyone tries to ignore. Maybe they will be evacuated. Maybe they won't.

The same can be said for the throngs of people they encounter: thugs, drunks, junkies, and outcasts. Any one of them could blow up at any time, but everyone tries to ignore it because they belong to the same make believe tribe.

At the open, Ruth and James have never met. She is going to a party with her friend and toxic partner. He is on the outskirts of town, taking a breather at a bar before trying to track down his father. It's there that he hitches a ride from two girls traveling to the same party.

The scene doesn't have any of the magic or enthusiasm of the beat generation at the jazz bar. Most people at the party are strung out, prisoners of their own poisons and always at risk of spiraling out of  control or having an overdose. But nobody cares. The music is loud. The air is hot. And for a few hours, nobody has any cares in the world — even if they ought to.

While their initial meeting is a miss, it establishes a familiarity that will eventually bring Ruth and James together. The linchpin between the two is Bridget, someone James has an intense interest in because he recognizes but can't place her.

The second time they meet under different circumstances, James and Ruth have a connection. While both have a saccharine chemistry between each other, they also have other agendas. Ruth sees him as a possible way out from under Bridget. James sees her as an gatekeeper to the girl he really wants to meet for longer than a few fleeting and drunken minutes, but not for the reason Ruth thinks.

A quick couple of words about author Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon.

While the writing can be distracting at times, especially as it takes a few paragraphs to decipher which narrator is telling the story at the opening of each chapter, Wirth Cauchon makes up for it by opening her characters up for psychoanalysis. They feel real with one exception. They think too much alike to be different people.

The author herself is currently pursuing her PhS in English, cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. She earned her masters from the University of Montana. In 2010, she received a fellowship for her manuscript, Nothing, which is her first novel.

Nothing By Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon Burns 6.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Both brilliant and bothersome at times, Nothing is a promising debut by an author to watch. It reads like an important first book even if it makes you work to appreciate it. But at the same time, she gets the people right. They are in the world and lost to it.

You can find Nothing by Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon on Amazon. The novel can also be ordered from Barnes & Noble or downloaded for iBooks. Expect a challenging read, but a compelling glimpse into the world of modern drifters, outcasts, and nobodies.
blog comments powered by Disqus