From a Pulitzer Prize finalist comes a hilarious and heartbreaking novel about a musician climbing back from rock bottom.
As winter deepens in snowbound Pollard, Illinois, thirty-something Francis Falbo is holed up in his attic apartment, recovering from a series of traumas: his mother's death, his beloved wife's desertion, and his once-ascendant rock band's irreconcilable break-up. Francis hasn't shaved in months, hasn't so much as changed out of his bathrobe-"the uniform of a Life in Default"-for nine days.
Other than the agoraphobia that continues to hold him hostage, all he has left is his childhood home, whose remaining rooms he rents to a cast of eccentric tenants, including a pair of former circus performers whose daughter has gone missing. The tight-knit community has already survived a blizzard, but there is more danger in store for the citizens of Pollard before summer arrives. Francis is himself caught up in these troubles as he becomes increasingly entangled in the affairs of others, with results that are by turns disastrous, hysterical, and ultimately healing.
Fusing consummate wit with the seriousness attending an adulthood gone awry, Rapp has written an uproarious and affecting novel about what we do and where we go when our lives have crumbled around us. Sharp-edged but tenderhearted, Know Your Beholder introduces us to one of the most lovably flawed characters in recent fiction, a man at last able to collect the jagged pieces of his dreams and begin anew, in both life and love. Seldom have our foibles and our efforts to persevere in spite of them been laid bare with such heart and hope.
Filmmaker and playwright Rapp's (The Year of Endless Sorrows) chatty, absurdist take on loss and depression centers on a downtrodden thirty-something who has lost hope for just about everything. That thirty-something, musician Francis Falbo, has become a shut-in agoraphobic, snowbound throughout a winter season in his attic in rural Pollard, Ill., as he soothes his broken spirit from a trio of misfortunes: his mother has died, his wife left him for an "intergalactically fit" younger man, and the "anti-industry psychedelic semi-jam" rock group that kept him energized has disbanded. His drug dealer's expanded selection of goodies pacifies him while the adventures of the assorted tenants who occupy his house's spare rooms suffice for entertainment, and he obsesses about the cleanliness of his beard and his penis. High in the attic above everyone else, up at all hours either drunk or brooding about his lack of a life, Falbo presents his raw, strange narration through the paralysis of bad luck and unfortunate circumstance: a "Life in Default," as he calls it. Written out in the form of an intimately journaled manuscript and infused with black humor and embittered angst, it would seem as if Rapp's indelicate story could've been too sullen to enjoy, but Falbo's darkly humorous agitation and unfiltered ruminations are just a few of the many reasons readers will find themselves enchanted.