The Librarian is the debut novel of Brooklyn based poet/writer John Grochalski, published by Six Gallery Press back in December 2013. As usual, I am late to the party. Not late to the party in a fashionable kind of way, more like in a kicking yourself because it was a fucking great party and you wished you'd been there from the start kind of way. The story follows several months in the life of Randall 'Rand' Wyndham, the titular (former) librarian. Rand is a drunken misanthrope who wastes his days in a variety of meaningless, dead end jobs and his evenings drowning his sorrows with the other barflies in his local boozer. I believe this is that 'American Dream' that I have heard so much about!?
We first meet Rand in the banal offices of a temp agency, about to be interviewed for jobs that he neither wants nor cares about, and is also very much over qualified for. His opening exchanges with the sour faced interviewee, explaining why he is no longer a librarian, had me genuinely laughing out loud:
"If there's something you're not telling me, Mr. Wyndham... I need to know."
"I headbutted a fellow librarian." I said.
"Headbutted? Could you be more specific?"
"Yeah. I took my head and slammed it into his head."There are not many novels that have made me laugh out loud within the first few pages, so I knew instantly that I was on to a winner here. Comedy is a highly underrated commodity in a novel like this. Without it, it could easily become a depressing, melodramatic slog to get through; reading about a cynical drunk as he wades through the day to day shit that you're currently knee deep in yourself. The comedy, the laughs, the wry smiles, the winks and the nods, they turn a good novel into a great novel. They make you connect to the characters and make you want to continue wading through the mire with them. Pulling for them to come through the other side. Too many writers take themselves far too seriously, but John Grochalski just tells it like it is, warts and all, cards on the table. The irony being that if Rand Wyndham took himself a little more seriously he might not find himself in the hole that he's in, but life's a bitch like that ain't it?
Grochalski's prose is crisp and concise, just the way I like it. A fine example of that old phrase "less is more". It would be all too easy to make comparisons to the likes of Charles Bukowski and Dan Fante, because they perfected this form of comical, confessional, painful existence burned onto the page. I don't know how much of this story is "confessional", or how much of Rand Wyndham can be found in John Grochalski, but I do know one thing, the man's name is definitely not out of place next to the likes of Bukowski, Fante and those of their ilk.
Do yourself a favour and grab a copy right now, right here.