In one of my favorite books last year, Robert Lopez’s Kamby Bolongo Mean River, a man is locked in a room with a telephone and a bed. He spends a lot of time answering phone calls from strangers, and a lot of time drawing stick men and masturbating, and rummaging through his brain contents of growing up in a place called Injury, Alaska.
The book’s title comes out of the narrator’s remembrance of his brother repeating the phrase from the TV miniseries Roots. The phrase, along with other odd small ideas, indented moments, phrases looped, present themselves so seared on the narrator’s head it is as if he’s not in this single tiny room at all. If you’ve ever wanted a perfect book to teach or observe voice as character, setting, etc., Rob is the one, both here in Kamby, and in his first book Part of the World. Few maintain such control line by line of what, where, and when while managing to keep you hypnotized in tone.
Rob has offered to give away a few copies of a rare purple-covered edition of Part of the World, never before available. To enter, just comment here with a memory of your own childhood related to some looming repetition of phrase or sound or image from TV or film.
Three winners will be selected late Thursday night.
Another excellent Michael Kimball interview at the Faster Times, this time with Robert Lopez, whose Kamby Bolongo Mean River should be on each and every Best of the Year list that knows anything about anything. Seriously had a more visceral emotional response to this book than any in recent memory, in the strangest of ways, such that I ended up just staring off between each sentence, feeling it bump around inside my head. An incredible example of how voice and sentences alone can create a heavy, gorgeous, multivalent whole. I’m giving a copy to my mom for Christmas this year.