from Five Best: Fiction About Failure
Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2010
By Steve Tesich (1998)
A neglected masterpiece, to be explained, perhaps, by its author's tragic death—of a heart attack at age 53—only months after the novel's completion. By page 100 you begin to wonder whether you will make it through to the end alive yourself, so relentlessly is the dissolution of its hero charted. A man "addicted to himself," an alcoholic who claims he can't get drunk—though you wouldn't ever call him sober—a neglectful father, a bad husband, a poor lover, but a good script-doctor, Saul Karoo can no longer find a single reason to resist the attentions, the blandishments and the job offers of people he detests. "The great So What of the soul speaks within me and urges me to accept." What ensues is hard to bear, but so alive is the writing that we follow the ruined Karoo willingly into hell.