Meet Roscoe Baragon–crack reporter at a major (well, maybe not that major) metropolitan newspaper. Baragon covers what is affectionately called the Kook Beat–where the loonies call and tell him in meticulously deranged detail what it’s like to live in their bizarre and lonely world. Lately Baragon’s been writing stories about voodoo curses and alien abductions; about fungus-riddled satellites falling to earth and thefts of plumbing fixtures from SRO hotels by strange aquatic-looking creatures. Not exactly New York Times material.
Maybe it’s the radioactive corpse that puts him over the edge. Or maybe it’s the guy who claims to have been kidnapped by the state of Alaska! But Baragon is now convinced that a vast conspiracy is under way that could take the whole city down–something so deeply strange that it could be straight out of one of the old Japanese monster movies that he watches every night before he goes to sleep. But stuff like this only happens in the movies. Right?
The Buzzing marks the fictional debut of the acclaimed author of Slackjaw. It is a novel of deep paranoia and startling originality. And it could certainly never happen. Right? Right?
Knipfel, the author of two well-received memoirs (Slackjaw; Quitting the Nairobi Trio), makes his first foray into fiction with a rambling New York City conspiracy yarn. Roscoe Baragon, jaded and faded newspaper reporter, has spent the better part of his professional life on the kook beat, consorting with and writing about the plethora of crackpots, perverts and conspiracy theorists littering the modern landscape. One of his sources hints of mischief at her residential hotel, setting in motion a series of events and strange occurrences: earthquakes along a particular Pacific longitude, NASA satellites falling from the sky, chicanery at the New York City morgue and, most sinister of all, the shadowy specter of a realty company staffed by toga wearers. Baragon emerges as a singularly unpleasant individual. His incessant beer consumption does little to add spice to his character, and his acquaintances are instantly recognizable types (and also spend much of their time guzzling copious quantities of beer). Knipfel's ability to spin something out of nothing stands him in good stead in his nonfiction, but his novel stalls for general lack of activity. The story's reliance on the well-worn idea of conspiracy theories suffers from Baragon's haphazard reasoning as he tries to jerry-rig an argument explaining the seemingly random weirdness afflicting the world. An intriguing link to the Godzilla movie franchise is suggested, but this spark sputters and dies soon after it is struck. Knipfel does bring some local color to his tale, but not enough to anchor the reams of speculation.