Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, April 29, 2021

There’s no ambiguity about the inspiration for Tyler Knox’s “Kockroach: A Novel”, as the book’s opening line should tell you:

As Kockroach, an arthropod of the genus Blatella and of the species germanica, awakens one morning from a typically dreamless sleep, he finds himself transformed into some large, vile creature.

And if it doesn’t tell you, then I’ll let one Franz Kafka enlighten you, “Metamorphosis”-style:

One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.

I’m a sucker for such literary remixing, as my earlier reading of Joe McGinniss Jr.’s “The Delivery Man” as latter-day “Less Than Zero” attests. If nothing else, it shows off an author’s reverence for the writerly giants.

Notice the level of reversal that Knox imbues in his prose. Not only does he accomplish the bug-to-man change (that “large, vile creature” being a human), but he picks up on Kafka’s granting of “anxious dreams” to Gregor Samsa to, in turn, establish that Kockroach, being a cockroach, would be bereft of any dreaming at all prior to all this. Dealing with more active mental faculties becomes a key driver in Knox’s telling.

I only wish “Kockroach” had held up beyond its opening couple of chapters. A nice enough attempt at hardboiled comic noir, but ultimately a bit of a mess, with most of the characters (including, regrettably, the lead female, who also serves as one of the three narrators) being too underdeveloped to keep the story going. A transformation — in the form of another editorial proofing or two — could have done wonders.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/29/2008 12:19:55 PM
Category: Book Review, Creative
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