When Yuvi’s wife finds him in his underwear, standing on top of his desk, she isn’t particularly impressed with his writing habits. But Yuvi worries. He has a wife who wants things he can’t give her, an editor who wants a book he can’t deliver, a brother-in-law whose gastrointestinal disease may lead him to a morbid end, and dead parents who, well, they don’t really want anything, but that doesn’t stop the memory of them from haunting him.
As the structure of Yuvi’s novel falls apart, so do his life and marriage.
His novel and his life blend together as Yuvi struggles to pull out of the mess. He travels from his suburban Jewish childhood in Atlanta to the North Carolina mountains of his father’s youth, to several hospital waiting rooms, to the living room of a grieving Palestinian man, and even to Uranus (and back, of course).
Heartbreaking and hilarious, 'A Brilliant Novel in the Works' is the utterly original debut novel from Yuvi Zalkow, praised by Cheryl Strayed as “the secret love child of the smartest person you’ve ever met and the weirdo who lives down the block.”
Zalkow's debut novel is having an out-of-body experience: it is a first-person account of an anxious Jewish writer named Yuvi struggling to complete his debut novel, and worrying incessantly about his floundering marriage. At the same time, Yuvi's brother-in-law, Joel, nicknamed Shmendrik, is suffering from severe colitis and requires intermittent hospitalization. Throughout the book, short italicized sections disrupt the already disjointed narrative; these sketches include childhood memories, science fictions set on Uranus, and conversations between Yuvi and his editor. The novel is obtrusively metafictional; one of the minor characters even refers to himself as an "ethnic plot device." Yet the book is not so much about Yuvi writing as it is about Yuvi's inability to write. His wife exclaims, "No wonder you have no plot in your novel! You get fixated on the smallest things and can't move forward." And she's right; bemoaning plotlessness doesn't lead to an engaging plot. The incessantly ironic, self-reflexive Yuvi also fails to provide a compelling centerpiece for the narrative he's an unsympathetic and immature protagonist, and he never manages to overcome his angst. Instead, he stresses over negative reviews and frets that "What I'm writing these days is bupkis." Unfortunately for Zalkow, bupkis comes of bupkis.