Consider this introduction a warning: Reading Sam Pink may make you a danger to society. The voice here in Rontel, as it was in Pink’s previous novel Person, is invasive. It will burrow its way deep into your brain and then echo through your gray matter. You will find yourself thinking the way his narrators think, and will then wonder if those fucked up thoughts tunneled in recently or if they were always there just waiting to be dug up.
Putting you further at risk, we’re teaming up with Lazy Fascist Press to release a special digital edition of Rontel, Sam Pink’s new novel, debuting on Valentine’s Day 2013. The narrator of Rontel, excerpted here, admits, “If people had access to my thoughts and feelings, I’d be asked to live on a rock in outer space—one with a long tether to a building in Chicago if any of my friends (just kidding) wanted to come visit.” This man, however, is not a psychotic. He goes shopping with his girlfriend, he has a pet cat, he sees a loose hot dog on the floor of the supermarket believes it is the “saddest thing ever.” He is just like you. The reality is that this man’s disturbing thoughts and feelings are not his alone; we all banish and repress similar thoughts so we can function in society, so we can cohabitate without completely repulsing those around us.
In a sense, living in a city like Chicago or New York is like being stuck in a terrible relationship. There’s a harmony of infatuation and disgust—a rat scurries along the subway tracks, it’s revolting but at least you’re not the only watching. At least you’re not alone. You loathe the city, and yet you know you’ll never leave it. Yes, it’s dysfunctional, but—unless you’re nothing like the rest of us—so are you.
Rontel’s narrator is an unnamed man for whom life is a “pile of things” that refuses to work together; a man whose underlying problem is that adulthood arrived without ceremony or certification. The novel is unsettling (often hysterically so), and it would be easy to call it “gritty” or “raw,” but really it’s just honest. In Rontel, we begin to recognize ourselves in a man who cannot relate to others, we realize that we all deserve to be exiled for the thoughts we’ve thought, the things we’ve nearly done.
Here is the call of the void that we’ve all heard but aren’t supposed to acknowledge. Here is our secret suspicion and fear that the universe, in all its magnificence and complexity, might be conspiring for meaninglessness, aligning itself in time for you to get hit by a taxi while eating a hot dog as you cross the street.
And yet, despite all this, in life and in Sam Pink’s fiction, there is a longing for connection, for interdependence. We may be incapable of many things, but our ultimate desires, our yearning for something better than ourselves, persists. We’re each of us dysfunctional, but, as Rontel’s narrator insists, “I still work, motherfucker.”