This here is my magnum opus, coming out from River Boat Books in late May of this very year of 2020. I will be 61 years old when it happens.
Let’s take a closer look, starting with the flap content:
Rick Harsch told me that for The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas, he reached into a bag of tricks left in a closet in Brussels by forgotten literary masters, and as the punning title might suggest, he attempts no less— and much more—than to come to grips with what empire has wrought, and how over the recent two centuries the United States rose to global economic mastery and nuclear proliferate madhouse. A serious tome indeed, with serious purpose, to the delight of the reader Harsch recognizes that seldom do tricks accomplish their purpose without humor— thus he is able to render the story of Hugh Glass and the grizzly with dark humor and quotidian accuracy yielding what meaning of that story was absent from the film even as the location has been moved 1500 miles westward. Yet Harsch plays no tricks with time: his modern characters are modern and his historical characters are, well, historical, all of them from the days of the mountain man right up to those of nuclear testing, down the Oregon Trail, with the gold rush, into the nuclear age, Vietnam, and even Blackwater—or, in this novel, Blackguard, the CEO of which is Mandrake Winchester Fondling, father of Drake Fondling the second, friend of Donnie Garvin, the two of whom dash off to Brussels much in the manner of Bardamu joining WWI at the beginning of Celine’s masterpiece. Heedless of the history hurrying their fates, they befriend the artist/bartender Setif, whose role in the story may be no more than to suggest what Harsch calls ‘an adamantine luminescence of the sane and the good buried beneath the degradations of time and the humans who keep track of it’. Their return to the United States is as if the fording of a stream across stones of history: (Summary continued on back flap) Fallujah, Twin Towers, Assassinations, and the familial dysphagia that bedevils the themes of US literature. My favorite of Harsch’s tricks are the Rabelaisian lists, for this novel may be above all a gift from one lover of language to all literary lovers of language, and the shock upon realizing the meaning of the lists— where the surreal, the hypermodern, and the mundane finally meet in an equation of horror—is jarring enough to elicit guilt in the most innocent reader. Meanwhile, this book is a romp, a romp through history and the present, story after story told in the jargon of the mountain man of the old west, the Indians, the coal miners, tycoons, the Joycean—at times, at others the clochard— narrator, the anonymous songsters of the old west, and one madman montagnard, the mysterious midget Nordgaard. Ultimately, the legends presented in this book are unknowable, where the wild Joaquin Murriata and the first Nevada lawman—shot six times only to survive—intersect, and what veins of story lead us to the present, where the logic and illogic of rapine dust off the irradiated dust to find that the inevitably violent and absurd have remained as complicit and inseparable as horse and rider, rider and horse. —Klaus Hauser, Stuttgart, for River Boat Books Rick Harsch is the author of seven books, including his cult classic The Driftless Zone (1997, Steerforth Press), Billy Verite (1998, Steerforth Press), Sleep of the Aborigines (2002, Steerforth Press), Arjun and the Good Snake (2011, Amalietti & Ąmalietti), Wandering Stone: the Streets of Old Izola (2017, Mandrac Press), Voices After Evelyn (2018, Maintenance Ends Press), and Skulls of Istria (2018, River Boat Books). There is no author photo, but let's include one here: or maybe this one Here's the blurbery on the back cover: Praise for Rick Harsch: Readers, don your thinking caps and hiking boots, for The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas is an epic journey through Harsch terrain, where at any moment language erodes into a mindscape of hoodoos and canyons—not unlike that geological fantasia, that palimpsest of usurpation: the American West. In an era when many writers concoct their trifles inside the cosseted lairs of academia, Rick Harsch is a refreshing counter-example, a chronicler of our nation’s nightmares from his balcony overlooking the Adriatic. You hold in your hands a nuclear apparatus of a novel, operated by characters all too aware of what their futures promise—like Rowor, the tongue man of the Nimíipuu, a night-languaged injun who befriends Hector Robitaille, the bear-mauled, buck-skinned ancestor of Eddie Vegas. Harsch weaves the roughhewn with the recondite like no other living novelist of my acquaintance. You will revel in his century-shifts, vast erudition, and the cock-eyed, half-cocked ardor of his men and women. —Scott Coffel, American poet and author of Toucans in the Arctic (Etruscan Press, 2009) “I think that once in every generation a few writers appear with the talent, brilliance, curiosity and DRIVE to dare to go their own way, to follow the lead of their own imaginations. I believe that Rick Harsch is of this group. In my view, Rick Harsch is one of the most talented and interesting young writers it has been my privilege to meet in all my years at Iowa.” —James Alan McPherson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for his short story collection Elbow Room (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1977). EXCERPT (one of my favorites):
Oh! And what a rendezvous that was, despite the absence
of Rowor, who would never come on his own, and Hector
and Jeffers come from straight north of there, having braved
Blackfoot country, so Rowor was hunnerds and hunnerds of
Oh yes, the rendezvous of ’32: they were right on time
at Pierre’s Hole, now Idaho, the far side of the Tetons, where
the Chikisaw Crow held their annual trout twattery, and the
balls of gopher fried in whiskey, the bear swilley cries of
“Homch fer that air bearskin” and the answer comic “Howmch
fer that bareskin,” led to a dance ruckus laughfest of flapjawed
contestants for the following days savvy parlay drum-timed
where-that-get-to wrassle, and throughout the month the
backstabbing stabbing gargle of gargoyles of death dwarfs
and murder, and Scurvy Sam n his tales tall of wolves and
va pale-face guzzlers, Jacques-knifed redskins, and Law?
Hah? Banjaxery ruleth the dog-tortured vomit bloodshittery,
beaver fer bearskin fer hide fer hairscalp, and the backscuttling
frontventing, anal twat cunny cockhole rectal labial nipple
ballsackery salted beefsides durnt saltedslabs hairdowntotheass
beard down to the knees and the shitting and pissing and lakes
and quicksand, and lookey here fren thattheresheepyereatin.
deerferall, axetraps, drygulching horseracing ponytrekking
rifleshooting Blackass Creecrow, Crow Cree, ShowshowKnee.
Pie-ute, Flathead, Blackhead Cheyenne Sioux, Mandan my
ass go-own git, ye pounding shrinking smearing stinking
beads-fer-suck-me-alls-slinking bowenarrah rattler peddlin
REDSKINS! How many redskins, if you just count the Nimipoo.
1000 lodges, the Flatheads 800 lodges, the mountain men, 4000.
and if you needs to check particular they say there was 30,000
horses at the rendezvous that year, but there was more oh
yes there was much more: oh yes, the atmosphere was festive,
the dirt was festive, the women and men were festive, Indian,
trader mountain man, gambler, whore, all were festive, and
their number in the thousands, and their thirst unquenchable,
their hunger insatiable, their lust phallicimous vaginous, their
mood ecstatic, their physiognomy boisterous, and such was
there fooferraahh that one could not distinguish the dance from
the game from the coupling from the trading from the stealing
from the rapine from the camaraderie, so that the names of the
dishes, the dances, the sexery, the so on and so off the et and
the cetra were all, too, indistinguishable, for they were many
and oft drunkenly accomplished, one acrostically, and that
The itch and scratch
The itch and snitch
The snatch and scrabble
Tendered is the bender
Hogleg and whirligiggle
Extraversion and ropov
Yams for Gerty
Shame and Shone
Idjits fer midjits
The furbelow cuckold
Flick the nipples
Ike makes haste late
The priestly babble
Zeno settles for half
Pigpile on Vladimir (the advanced copy/paste mechanisms gave us pimple on Vladimir)
Angles of Grind
Cram the lamb
Kate, ye rewent me
Earwigs in the pie!
Rumpus and bumpus
Sphincter, my lobe
The wheat and the scroff
Harley, I can’t break it
Ruxus and fluxus
Oh deer, I have shot you
Ants in the hole!
The grl and mer of life
Whet the wistle
Harlots heaven hellsup
Ingots in guts
Leopard frog targets
Eviscerate the monk
Embed the lead
(and so on for about six more pages)…
Recently my publisher referred to this as a modern western classic, but you’ll find elsewhere in this blog extensive excerptal proof that it is hardly limited to the west of the United States, as there is a long piece from the book that takes place in Vietnam. In fact, you get plenty of indication in the flapcrap above that the book is about the formation of the empire as a whole, how it got here and what it’s like being here.
River Boat Books does not collaborate with Amazon, so it is best found at http://www.riverboatbooks.com.