August 21, 2015
Fall Books Preview: Rules for Werewolves, by Kirk Lynn
by Mark Krotov
We’re only weeks away from the launch of our Fall 2015 season, but why wait until September? Over the next couple of weeks, we’re giving you an exclusive look at the exciting new books about to land at Melville House—debut novels, major translations, and nonfiction about everything from dog walking to cocktail culture. We’ll feature a different excerpt every day, along with an introduction by our editors. Today’s book is Rules for Werewolves, by Kirk Lynn, out October 13.
“All the famous fictional suburbs,” wrote Charles McGrath in 2004, “are earthly paradises, places where the American dream has seemingly come to expensive, landscaped fruition.” What a difference a decade makes. Rules for Werewolves, Kirk Lynn’s fearless, hilarious debut novel, gives us the suburbs post-mortgage crisis, post-economic meltdown, post-American Dream. We’re a long way from conformity and stylish self-destruction (“Alcohol flows through these novels like a seductive potion,” wrote McGrath of those classic suburban novels). This is a story about a group of misfits—a collective—who roam around and occupy empty houses and convince one another that they’re revolutionaries. They do not wallow—they act. Until, that is, the titular rules start getting in the way. In this novel, the characters regulate and legislate everything—how long to leave the lights on, when to move on to a new house, whether to kill their captives. The novel is told mostly in unattributed dialogue, and so we see these bureaucratic conflicts play out unmediated (assuming that anything in a book by a master novelist can be “unmediated,” which of course it can’t). The characters’ halting, tentative gestures toward revolution are very funny and very poignant: they echo crises of suburbs past, but they are bleaker—and timelier. Rules for Werewolves is, in other words, a novel of rebellion for a very anxious age. The excerpt below is the book’s eighth chapter, titled “Bobert, Anquille, Susan, Angel, and Tom decide the hat is a god.”
—You guys’ll do anything he tells you to, won’t you. That wasn’t even a meeting. It was just Malcolm fucking bossing us around.
—You cuss too much, Angel.
—I don’t wanna have any more meetings.
—Then how are we gonna decide what to do?
—Do whatever you want.
—We should elect a leader.
—Fuck voting. Voting is just a fist the majority uses to beat up on minorities.
—Yeah, fuck voting.
—Then what are we gonna do?
—I say we write down every single thing we can think of to do, forever, and we put all those ideas in a hat and then every morning we pull an idea out of the hat and then do whatever it says.
—What if we write “Go lie in the sun” and it’s raining outside?
—First of all, who’s gonna write “Go lie in the sun,” Susan? Why not write “Live inside a fucking Chevrolet commercial.” And second of all, fuck the weather. If we do write “Go lie in the sun,” I’m not gonna ask the weather if it’s all right if I live my life. I’m gonna go lie in the sun no matter what it’s like outside.
—This is perfect. This is totally perfect.
—What if I write “Fuck the hat system, let’s vote on shit.”
—Then that’s what we do for that day.
—This is perfect. I’m gonna write “Go home and go back to the way you used to live.”
—Shut up. Listen. Fucking idiot. I wanna go home sometimes. But the hat is perfect because I don’t want to go back permanently. I just wanna go see my little brother. Just for one day. Make sure he’s all right.
—If you go back home, Bobert, your mom is gonna tie you to your bed and bring in a psychologist to ask you why you want to live like an animal.
—I got away once. I can get away again. My family isn’t a kind of trap that can keep me locked up forever.
—Leave him alone.
—What are you two, Susan? A fucking “mated pair”?
—Leave ’em both alone.
—This is cool. I say let’s do it. The hat. Just for one day.
—All in favor, raise your hand.
—Ow. What was that for?
—Fucking raising your hand. We’re not voting. We’re just doing it. Don’t do it if you don’t want to.
Scribble. Scribble. Scribble. Scribble. Scribble.
—All right. Now someone pick one.
—This is so cool. I’ll pick one.
—What’s it say?
—“Go steal a bunch of beer from the Speedy Stop and get drunk!”
—The hat is a god!
—Let’s do it.
—I don’t know if this a good idea.
—Don’t be a fucking coward, Bobert.
—You’re just as bad as Malcolm, Angel.
—You’re just as bad as a soap opera, Susan. Mooning over your little boyfriend. Staying behind to protect him.
—I’m not staying behind. It sounds cool. But if Bobert wants to stay then let him.
—I’m staying here.
—Suit yourself. But the hat is a god. It’s going to punish you if you don’t do what it says.
—I think I’ll be all right.
Rules for Werewolves, by Kirk Lynn
On Sale October 13.
Mark Krotov was a senior editor at Melville House.