A Brave Man certainly shares ideas with William Gaddis’ masterpiece The Recognitions, as well as Thomas Pynchon’s V.: the relentless and manic appearance of coincidence, the skewering of the latest art scene and inevitable hanger-ons, and ultimately the questioning of what truly constitutes art.
Now, the buzz is drawing comparisons to Denis Johnson and, largely, Flannery O’Connor: stark, effusive, violent, seminal writers. Though after finishing Morris’s debut, I find I’m only struck to agree with this likening in its broadest possible sense, almost to a degree that their connections are contextual, and not what is drawn out of the writing.
Following the death of his wife, Jacob Rosenbloom, veritable inventor of the film projector, moves his son from New York to California in an outward move of grief. Yet, along the way, Bloom, a sharply inquisitive, twelve-year-old, accounts the manner in which the two have been followed, their entire journey, by three looming figures, and he begins to understand it’s not only grief that has motivated his father.
There are many attempts to write something original, or offbeat, in the trends of literary fiction. These attempts include insular references, experimental sectioning, pictographs, and so on, but a good writer can always achieve something original in linear form. Vernon Downs is eccentrically original, and it may not even be a book I like.