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Fine, I thought, a Volkswagen Beetle. I was hooked by the end of the first page. It was a get-away farm. Farms, for example, and also musical riffs. The narrator gets yelled at by his boss for this reason. Everything in this world is alive and animate. I sat up. There was nothing.

They give the condom a proper burial in a little matchbox coffin outside in the sparkling cold. The narrator breaks down when the coffin is lowered into the hole. I wanted to know: Why did it happen? What had the condom or my father, for that matter done wrong in its life?

And where did it go? The narrator is a writer at a newspaper.


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His editor is a block of cheese. His best friend is a chest of drawers; they go hiking together.

The session deteriorates when the therapist asks the narrator to come into the room:. Then the ratchet began to sniffle and a tear ran down his cheek. The therapist turned to him. The VW does run on stories, mostly. It also requires a certain variety of chai tea in large quantities, and also love.

These procedures are explicated at some length in the sections of How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive that are modeled after the Volkswagen handbook of the same title, where the narrator describes the chaotic and beautiful workings of the VW.

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These are the sections, incidentally, where the momentum of the book occasionally falters, particularly near the beginning. Emily St. John Mandel is a staff writer for The Millions. She is married and lives in Brooklyn. There is nothing stale here. Each new sentence seems to jump from the final word of the former, creating a veritable leapfrog effect that pulls the reader through stories possessing a powerful sense of urgency.

These are tales that must be read, and must be read now. He does this repeatedly, amazed at how there is no one on the other end of the line.

Volkswagens as metaphor for life | Syracuse University News

If You Lived Here is composed both of vignettes—subtle snapshots of consciousness—and long, winding tales rich with layers of complexity. And despite belonging to a generation of writers that, in the past, has shown itself in love with snarky, ironic storytelling saturated with manufactured ennui, If You Lived Here is honest and unafraid to dip into emotionality. His voices are confident, and Jodzio possesses an uncanny ability to conjure the perfect image, however odd or offbeat it might first appear, to paint the moment at hand. There is no solipsistic musing in Jodzio, no dorm-room philosophizing, no attempts at waxing poetic.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Novel

Only the grit and the dirt. The thin veneer that attempts to mask the painful truth that the characters of his world are horrifyingly and utterly alone. Its arrangement is a bit muddled. Then, take out the momentpump. Like I say, every car is different. This may be nonsense, but it feels exactly right, like the way you can read a word even if all the interior letters are scrambled.

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How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive is a deceptively avant-garde novel. Like an engine overhaul, it re-configures our understanding of how a story can be told.

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But the first pages are a pleasure in their own right, a swift ride through a landscape of nearly stupefying emotions. The story is about a single father in rural Massachusetts hitting rock bottom after the death of his own father. The game is making sense of his metaphors, which are so cracked out that you fear for his sanity.

The metaphors end up making an eerie kind of sense, and you realize that the book is re-wiring the way look at the world.