Locust House Book Review and Author Interview with Adam Gnade

11:51 AM

Title : Locust House
Author : Adam Gnade
Publisher : Pioneers Press/Three One G (April 5, 2016)
Total Page Numbers : 60
Genre : Fiction
ISBN : 978-1939899248
Rating (Out of 5 Stars) : 5/5 (Seriously , it’s amazing)

Summary of Book:
“In his latest work of fiction, Locust House, San Diego-born author Adam Gnade writes about his homeland in the tradition of regionalists like Sherman Alexie, William Faulkner, and Willa Cather. Gnade’s chunk of Southern California is a place of border clash, of a glimpse of stormy sea from a top coastal hills or rollercoasters, of ratty beach apartments and punk shows.
Locust House is the latest in Gnade’s ongoing life-project, a series of books and “talking songs” that share characters and continue story-lines in an attempt to document a personal history of America. In its pages Gnade borrows the classic structure of teen films like American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused to tell the story of one night in the life of a group of young Americans.
Here we see Gnade’s characters en route to (and at, and after) a house show featuring their favorite band, The Locust. We see the strain of contemporary American life on those who want it the least. We are given a wide view of lives in transition, of youth on the wane, of candidly depicted sex and cathartic bloodletting, of life in the vigorous prime before the pains of adulthood set in.
We’re also shown a lush, encyclopedic portrait of a place, of seashore and streets, of bedroom and back alley. It is a story that asks, “What does it mean to hold fast to your dreams, ethics, and beliefs while the whole world tries to tame you?” Locust House is a time capsule and a warning, a call-to-arms and, at its very heart, a love-letter.”
Excerpt from Three One G

What I Thought:
Honestly, I’m at a complete loss for words. This single book blew me away hardcore. My friend, Rebecca, was the one to first show me the work of Adam Gnade and I was totally shocked. The rawness and the realness of the words I was reading made me squeal at some points while reading, because I don’t think I’ve ever read something quite like this before. I was underlining and tagging this book like crazy and I’m so glad that it exists.

Agnes’s story was a hard thing to read, rough times are always hard to read, but it was so great. Frances, James, and Tyler were all so different but so connected in ways I couldn’t even imagine. This view of America and society and community, it’s like all the things I’ve wanted to try to say right on the page in front of me. Although it’s short, it’s not sweet. It’s a look at the reality of relationships, the past, present, future, and world from the point of view of people living it, told through Gnade. Adam, you rock dude. This book is truly LIFE CHANGING.

Some of my favorite lines…

"That's one thing I've learned: People say there are things that can't be taken from you. Everything can be taken from you. The place you live, your friends, your family, your health, your youth, your sense of self or your dignity, your freedom, your confidence, your spirit, anything. There is nothing in you that's yours to keep if someone else wants it bad enough. You try to hold onto it but life is (inherently, unfairly) violent." (31)

"As I walked through the house alone I looked at everyone and I loved them all. Who were they? All those kids -- drunk, sober, laughing, bickering, smoking, hooking up, arguing. I wanted to be everyone's friend all at once, to take each one aside and say, 'Look, here we are; we're together for this one great thing. Why don't we all know each other? Who are we in this place and most of us strangers? I'm a nice person. Life is lonely. Let's be friends.'" (39)

“... America is this huge, vast, enormous place where everyone you know lives so astronomically far away from each other. There’s a deep, sad estrangement in Americans.We’re all so spread apart and isolated, living these remote, far-flung lives but we’ve chosen this. Maybe we could’ve chosen differently. I don’t know. But this is what we wanted.”  (36)

“I work. I fight. I believe.” (45)

I was lucky enough to also get a much needed interview with Adam Gnade himself!

Where are you from?

San Diego, California. The first house I lived in after I came back from the hospital was a little beach-town cottage on 1319 Missouri Street. There were chickens and a garden. These days I live on a farm near the Missouri River. There are chickens and a garden here too.

Tell us your latest news?

The new book is out so I'm in the middle of the post-release madness--doing readings, radio stuff, interviews. I'm proud of the book of course but I'm still surprised at how much attention it's getting. It's an exciting time, for sure. I'm also glad as hell to be on the Three One G roster. That's a dream come true. One of my biggest.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as a teenager after reading a magazine piece set in a small fishing village in Portugal. I liked the style so I wrote a story about my own life in the same fashion. It was published in the San Diego Reader and they gave me more money than I'd made all month mowing my parents' lawn and doing yard work for the neighbors. I like to think that when they found out how young I was they didn't take any of my new pitches. But really, my new pitches were awful, kid stuff as you might imagine. Years later I was interviewed by a journalist from Portugal and at the end of it he told me I should visit his village if I were ever in Portugal. Of course I asked him what the name of the village was hoping to hell it would be the same, and it was. A few years after that I ended up staying with him after a disastrous trip through Europe. The village was called Ericeira. A good, lovely place. Big cliffs and beachside fishermen's bars. Hilly streets, blue and white painted walls. The very old Old World.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Wanting to show America as I know it which has been one of my big motivations for all the fiction since.

A lot of people have really been greatly affected by your work. You talk a lot about heroes and who not to have as heroes, how do you feel about being a hero for some people?

I don't know if I'm a hero to anyone but if I am I hope I don't let them down. Dead heroes are safer because you know what they've done and if you're going to be disappointed you'll see it in advance. There's much more room for disappointment with the living.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don't know if I'm conscious enough of my own style to explain it but I have a format and structure I'm working on. That's something along the lines of a museum with lots of smaller displays next to the big exhibits, taxidermied shore birds and fish, a glass case with a village scene next to a plaque explaining where something came from, almost like a footnote. Then little dioramas with a button to press to turn the lights on, a lot of background information on signs, and all of it seemingly jumbled together but actually very intentionally placed.

How did you come up with the title/cover?

The titles come to me all throughout the day and I write them down on whatever's around. The covers are done by whichever designer is hired for the project. I'm lucky to have had good people working on these books.

What’s the difference between your writing vs. the writing from the beat generation (Jack Kerouac etc.)?

Hopefully a lot. I've read a good amount of their work but so much of it is really obnoxious. I like the cleaner, simpler reads like On the Road, the Yage Letters, and "A Supermarket in America," but when a lot of those writers get into religion, zen, jazz, "the burden of the poet," and druggy surrealism it loses me.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

In Locust House there are a few of them but the one I want people to walk away with is that you will suffer if you try to hold onto your dreams but that it's worth the struggle. I say this because there's a particular awfulness in disappointing yourself by going back on your plans.

How much of the book is realistic (are any parts based on someone you know, or events in your own life)?

Those are secrets I'm keeping. Unless I write a memoir one day and over-explain my history and how it connects with the books but I really hope I won't.

How is your most recent release, Locust House, different from other things you’ve written before?

Hopefully it's better. I want each thing I do to be better than the last.

What are your current projects?

There's a big, ambitiously-structured novel that's nearly done. I'm staying quiet on that until I know I can pull it off. I'm working very hard right now on a couple smaller projects and hopefully some of it will be good and worth paying attention to.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I have a hard time keeping my story out of The Story but I try very hard.

You speak about loving the country but hating the government. We grow up in a generation where moderate patriotism is rare and skepticism tends to overwhelm the minds of kids, especially those in subcultures. Have you seen the progression up to this? Is there a way out?

Moderation in general is rare. We're living in radicalized times but it'll swing back the other way once the country is a little more stable. "If," I guess I should say. Because if Trump is elected I think we're due for ugly days.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Roberto Bolaño. When he writes well you feel as if you've gone a greater distance than you have. He gives you a lot in small spaces. A short book like Distant Star feels like six novels in one. I've also been reading a lot of Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, Twain, and Victor Hugo.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don't buy into the drunken writer thing. You won't write anything good if you try to be Bukowski. Also, most MFAs will never write a decent thing.

What is your view on the issue of the “American Dream”: putting down roots vs. going on the road?

I vote to abolish it. We have to find new ways to live and not follow formulas.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Accept that life is brutally awful and look for the sweeter, more satisfying moments. Never give up the search for them.

Where can we contact you / find you?

I'm doing a lot of readings this summer. Anyone interested should come on out. Next one is at Plan-It-X Fest in July.

Do you have any links to where we can buy your book?

Yeah, or are places to be.

Once again, I hope anyone reading this considers reading Locust House, it’s a whole different literary experience!

Thanks to Adam and Pioneers Press for graciously sending a copy of the novella for review.

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