Lit-urday: Margarito and the Snowman by REYoung
Austin author’s latest waggles an icy pistola at your hangover menudo.
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
10:00AM, Sat. Oct. 1, 2016
The last time REYoung had a book published – Unbabbling, his first – it was reviewed in the pages of The Austin Chronicle by Harvey Pekar.
[Note: Pekar’s dead now, of course, has been gone for six years, more’s the pity; and so I’m going to pretend that 1) there are such things as ghosts and that 2) the ghost of Harvey Pekar recently tapped me on the shoulder and was like, “Okay, Brenner, look – I’ve got, you know, I’ve got a lot of fucking haunting I need to take care of right now. So you go ahead and review this new REYoung thing.”]
This time REYoung, which is the only way you ever see his name listed, comes at us with Margarito and the Snowman via his inaugural publisher, Texas’s own Dalkey Archive Press … and he’s all waving his salsa-stained, nail-bitten hands and, like, gesticulating out the story of some alt-future (or possibly just an alt-present) in which teams of low-paid government-contract workers cover the entire landscape of Texas and beyond with tons of snow (or Icine, the hi-tech equivalent of snow) every single goddam night – due to a variety of reasons, one of which is to deter Mexican immigrants from crossing the border into the north, into the year-round ersatz blizzards of los Estados Unidos.
Except it’s not just the story of that. No, Margarito and the Snowman – a novel that’s mostly set, when it’s not south of the border, in a spot-on analog of Austin that the author calls Osberg – is also the story of the making of a movie about the story of Margarito and the Snowman. Or is it? It’s sometimes hard to tell, the fades and flash-cuts a mite disorienting even when they’re specifically called out as such, and the narrative itself might be as unreliable as its narrator – or as the indie film director Boone Weller who, readers are encouraged to believe, is the cinematic man with the metafictive plan behind all the snow-blowing, day-drinking, road-tripping action.
What’s not unreliable is REYoung’s ability to evoke, via swirling kaleidoscopic streams of prose that smack of Pynchon channeling Kerouac, the wild scenarios he’s concocted. The man’s been around the block with a major set of wounds once or twelve times, it seems, and he’s a savant at cataloguing the memory of it, infusing it into the Snowman’s trainwreck of a life: The quotidian chockablock with the exotic, the concrete riddled with fantasy, and what it’s like to be a working-class and heartbroken college dropout doing too many drugs in the hopes of tolerating a shitty dead-end job in a fake-snowed metropolis where the tech industry leeches talent from the big university and Savage (sic) Vanguard Theatre and Tu Madre’s (also sic) are among the businesses lining the gentrifying Eastside’s Maynard Road.
[Note: Also have to mention the amount of wordplay, almost a tic, with which the author amuses himself and, possibly, readers whose amusement threshold is lower than their brim of aggravation; viz., the Snowman’s formerly artistic ex, Judith? Making … hollow furnaces? Fuck you, REYoung.]
I’ll go out on a limb here (my left arm, specifically: it’s where my consciousness most often tends to chill with a clove-infused e-cig) and suggest that, if you’ve done a few illegal drugs, or at least just shitloads of weed, you’ll dig this book more than someone who hasn’t. Because 1) the author captures those experiences in a way that’ll hit you as familiar, at the level of what they call achingly familiar; but also because 2) reading Margarito and the Snowman, with its vorticinal plot structure and its many sometimes crystalline digressions, is a lot like doing some kind of drug. Which, if you buy that, you should probably also buy this book. Because it’s a definitely recreational drug that rewards its imbibers with diabolical Tex-Mex visions and ideas they’ll find nowhere else, even while it inexorably recalls the latenight-Walgreens-aisle vale of tears through which we all must toil.