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Hystopia
Hystopia
by David Means


 
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New York, NY: Farrar Straus & Giroux (2016)

By the early 1970s, President John F. Kennedy has survived several assassination attempts and--martyred, heroic--is now in his third term. Twenty-two-year-old Eugene Allen returns home from his tour of duty in Vietnam and begins to write a war novel--a book echoing Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-Five--about veterans who have their battlefield experiences "enfolded," wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy. In Eugene's fictive universe, veterans too damaged to be enfolded stalk the American heartland, reenacting atrocities on civilians and evading the Psyche Corps, a federal agency dedicated to upholding the mental hygiene of the nation by any means necessary.
This alternative America, in which a veteran tries to reimagine a damaged world, is the subject of Hystopia, the long-awaited first novel by David Means. The critic James Wood has written that Means's language "offers an exquisitely precise and sensuous register of an often crazy American reality." Means brings this talent to bear on the national trauma of the Vietnam era in a work that is outlandish, ruefully funny, and shockingly violent. Written in conversation with some of the greatest war narratives from the Iliad to the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," Hystopia is a unique and visionary novel.

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