Lacking Character

In the spirit of “transcendental buffoonery,” Curtis White’s return to fiction is fun in the extreme. The story begins when a masked man with “a message both obscure and appalling” appears at the door of the Marquis claiming a matter of life and death, declaring, “I stand falsely accused of an atrocity!”

Dispatched by the Queen of Spells from the Outer Hebrides, the Masked Man’s message was really just a polite request for the Marquis (a video game-playing burnout) to help him enroll in some community college vocational classes. But the exchange gets botched… badly. And our masked man is now lost in America, encountering its absurdities at every turn, and cursing those responsible for this cruel fate — including the author that created him.

In a time obsessed with the crisis du jour, White asks us to remember what it’s like to laugh, to be a little silly even, in order to reclaim what used to be fundamental to us — the strength to create our own worlds.

CURTIS WHITE has published seven earlier books of fiction, including Memories of My Father Watching TV. His non-fiction includes The Middle MindThe Science Delusion, and We, Robots. His essays have appeared in Harper’s, the Village Voice, Orion, Salon, Tricycle, and Playboy.

“Curtis White was never Lacking Character.” —Vanity Fair

“A comic, absurd delight… White is a postmodern master, and in this wild satire he transforms the banal into magic.” Publishers Weekly

“Curtis White is a master of the digressive, philosophical novel. His new work Lacking Character provides another excellent example of this tradition… Lacking Character is very funny, bursting with wit and generosity… Largely a picaresque, Lacking Character, revels in fantasia, bawd, and mythology. It evokes Thomas Pynchon, Robert Coover, and the historical picaresque. There is Rabelais as well as the Soviet fairy tales of Kapek or Kharms, and the French symbolist films of Cocteau or Demy… Lacking Character is funny and heartbreaking.” —Entropy

“A blistering, madcap romp through the current zeitgeist.” —Booklist

“White’s latest exploration of the satire of social dysfunction is endlessly inventive and endlessly imitative — cribbing forms from such diverse masters as E.T.A. Hoffman, Jonathan Swift, Flann O’Brien, and many more…. A profane wrestling match between high style and low comedy which owes as much to Rocky and Bullwinkle as it does to Gauguin’s Vision After the Sermon.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Curtis White returns to the novel after twenty years. Enough said.” — Big Other

“Fun fact: Jonathan Swift spent four decades living incognito in the Midwest USA writing books under the name Curtis White.” Joshua Cohen, author of The Book of Numbers and Moving Kings

“Raw, rude and rowdy metaphysical slapstick, packed with buffoonery, frantic, at times wistful — Lacking Character is meant to amuse, piss off and, above all, distract from prevailing, pandemic lunacies.” —Rikki Ducornet, author of Brightfellow

Lacking Character is marvelous. It is what writing must be (what is required) in this very moment of the Kali Yuga.” —Mark Leyner, author of The Sugar Frosted Nutsack and My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist

Praise for Curtis White

“The most inspiringly wicked social critic of the moment.” —Will Blythe, Elle

“Cogent, acute, beautiful, and true.” —David Foster Wallace

“Absolutely indispensable.” —Slavoj Žižek

“A master of bewitchments, parodies, and dazzling tropes.” —Paul Auster

“Splendidly cranky.” —Molly Ivins

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