With his critically acclaimed first novel, Jonathan Miles was widely praised as a comic genius "after something bigger" (Los Angeles Times) whose fiction was "not just philosophically but emotionally rewarding" (New York Times Book Review).
Now, in his much anticipated second novel, Want Not, Miles takes a giant leap forward with this highly inventive and corrosively funny story of our times, a three-pronged tale of human excess that sifts through the detritus of several disparate lives - lost loves, blown chances, countless words and deeds misdirected or misunderstood - all conjoined in their come-hell-or-high-water search for fulfillment.
As the novel opens on Thanksgiving Day, readers are telescoped into three different worlds in various states of disrepair - a young freegan couple living off the grid in New York City; a once-prominent linguist, sacked at midlife by the dissolution of his marriage and his father's losing battle with Alzheimer's; and a self-made debt-collecting magnate, whose brute talent for squeezing money out of unlikely places has yielded him a royal existence, trophy wife included.
Want and desire propel these characters forward toward something, anything, more, until their worlds collide, briefly, randomly, yet irrevocably, in a shattering ending that will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.
With a satirist's eye and a romantic's heart, Miles captures the morass and comedy of contemporary life in all its excess. Bold, unblinking, unforgettable in its irony and pathos, Want Not is a wicked, bighearted literary novel that confirms the arrival of a major voice in American fiction.
All but one of the black trash bags, heaped curbside on East 4th Street, were tufted with fresh snow, and looked, to Talmadge, like alpine peaks in the moonlight, or at least what he, a lifetime flatlander, thought alpine peaks might look like if bathed in moonglow and (upon further reflection) composed of slabs of low-density polyethylene. Admittedly, his mental faculties were still under the vigorous sway of the half gram of Sonoma County Sour Diesel he'd smoked a half hour earlier, but still: Mountains. Definitely. When he brushed the snow off the topmost bag and untied the knot at its summit, he felt like a god disassembling the Earth.
Micah would surely object to this analogythe problem with dudes, he could hear her saying, is that y'all can't even open a freaking trash bag without wanting to be some kind of god subjugating the planetbefore needling him for making any analogy at all. "You're, like, the only person in the world who overuses the ...
Want Not affirms the validity of human stories in spite of the seemingly overwhelming problem of wastefulness. What we waste, what we create accidentally, what we accumulate: these can all form a sort of physical legacy. Like Miles's characters, readers must recognize that true value is based not in what we hoard or what we throw away, but in the ties we form in life.
(Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).
Full Review (1137 words).
Food waste, one of the key issues underlying Jonathan Miles's Want Not, is a problem that is beginning to draw more attention worldwide. Every year American households and retailers throw away 40 million tons of usable food. In early 2013 the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers issued a report, entitled "Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not," which estimated that 30-50% of food produced worldwide goes to waste. This is due to a combination of factors including supermarkets' strict aesthetic standards for produce, restaurants' super-sized portions, consumers buying more than they need or not using food in time (often spurred by buy-one-get-one-free deals), and inefficient methods of food harvesting and transportation in developing nations. ...
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As more people are going hungry while simultaneously more people are morbidly obese, American Wasteland sheds light on the history, culture, and mindset of waste while exploring the parallel eco-friendly and sustainable-food movements.
A groundbreaking work of investigation and cultural history that may change the way America thinks about the way it eats.
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