"Guilty to have life and not know what to do with it." Kyle and Swin are two young, small time criminals hiding out in a dilapidated state park, caught up in a dope deal that's too big for them and going all wrong. Brandon uses the set dressing of a crime novel against the backdrop of the strip-mall, backwoods modern American South to explore bigger questions. Can young, aimless men find meaning for their lives anymore? And can they do it before Frog decides he wants his money back and comes to take it?" --Chris— From Chris's Staff Recommendations
Originally published by McSweeney's in hardcover and met with wide acclaim, Arkansas is a darkly comic debut novel written by John Brandon about a pair of drug runners, Kyle and Swin, set in the rural southeast. Drawing comparisons to a striking range of storytellers, from Quentin Tarantino and Mark Twain to Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy, John Brandon--an MFA graduate of Washington University who worked an array of odd jobs while writing the novel, including at a rubber factory and a windshield warehouse--delivers a tightly written, bitterly funny story that chronicles the monochromatic landscape of the American southeast and gives a glimpse into the mindset of his wildly troubled yet seemingly real characters.
John Brandon’s remarkable first novel will blow away a certain readership. . . . Arkansas rants against the machine in a voice combining Raymond Chandler’s side-of-the-mouth noir with Quentin Tarantino’s gleeful-psychopath wit and Mark Twain’s episodic romance of the journey.” San Francisco Chronicle
Brandon’s premier novel is a must for those who love the criminal and the stern yet dark optimism of the existential. His vision of Arkansas is unique, his wit is sharp, and the sympathy he has for his characters is genuine. For all the dark alleys Brandon explores, both physically and psychologically, Arkansas’s power rests in its redefining and restructuring of the criminal’s only hope: family.” PopMatters
Add novelist John Brandon to your list of hipster-sanctioned must-reads . . . Brandon’s writing is so sparse it sometimes feels blasé, but the tension between his hard-boiled prose and his characters’ appealing naiveté makes the novel work.” The Portland Mercury