Reviews and Praise of CRUST | Lawrence Shainberg
- Click on active links to read full reviews:
The Village Voice
It's finally here! I'm talking, of course, about "Crust," the hotly anticipated novella by Lawrence Shainberg, author of "Memories of Amnesia" (a neurosurgically acute piece of fiction in which a brain reports on its own deterioration), not to mention one of the most entertaining books I've ever read about Zen Buddhism, "Ambivalent Zen." The literati have been buzzing about this book for a couple of years now, so I almost thought it was an April Fool's joke when it arrived in the mail.
Published by Two Dollar Radio, Shainberg's footnote-laden, Vonnegut-worthy satire recounts how one Walker Linchak, a highly decorated but bored author in his late 40s, accidentally helps pioneer and promote a Scientology-like movement that combines science, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and theology. The movement is called Nasalism, for reasons which immediately become obvious, and George W. Bush is one of its fervent adherents. In the book, I mean; I don't know where the president comes down on this issue in real life.
Shainberg's expertise in the area of neuroscience -- in the early 1990s, he published a well-received book about the life and work of a world-famous neurosurgeon, Dr. James Brockman -- is put to excellent use, here. If the surgery-obsessed J.G. Ballard had written the fictional science journal excerpts which pepper the novel (about "crust expansion and descent through the superior turbinate and eventual coagulation in the maxilla," for example) he couldn't have improved on them.
If poking fun at academic jargon floats your boat, you'll enjoy reading about how "each of our nasal secretions is an opportunity to confront the essential ambiguities of self and identity," and how the great gift of Nasalism is "dialectical incongruity," which is to say a near-effacement of the distinction between inside/outside and pleasure/pain.
But what the book really satirizes is American culture and media -- the way trends are conjured out of nothing, thanks to a few blog posts here, a tenure-track academic looking for a hot topic to theorize about there, and of course, newspapers like this one.
I can't reveal any more, at this time, because the book is embargoed until October. But let me just add my two cents to the excited blurbs contributed by the novelists Jonathan Lethem ("One of the most perverse and single-minded satires I've ever read") and Norman Mailer ("It's wild as sin and revolting as vomit and as exceptional as the lower reaches of insanity itself"). I think that Two Dollar Radio has picked a real winner.