BookBrowse Reviews Big Machine by Victor LaValle

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Big Machine

A Novel

by Victor LaValle

Big Machine
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2009, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2010, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

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A fiendishly imaginative comic novel about doubt, faith, and the monsters we carry within us

In 1966, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen published his influential underground novel Beautiful Losers. About ten years later, Bob Seger recorded an album and song of the same title, minus the "s" at the end. Although I’ve never read Cohen’s book and never particularly cared for Seger’s music, I found that phrase running through my head as I read Big Machine, a novel that plunks down a group of ex-cons and drug addicts (or "Unlikely Scholars," as they are known in their new realm) at an occultist institution called the Washburn Library in a remote part of Vermont. Each Scholar has been mysteriously summoned by a note that claims to have knowledge of his or her deepest secret, and each note includes a one-way bus ticket to Burlington. For Ricky Rice, a janitor trying to quietly scrape by and stay off heroin, this odd missive comes as the ultimate second chance in a lifetime...

Victor LaValle was born February 3, 1972 and raised in the Flushing and Rosedale neighborhoods of Queens, New York. He has a degree in English from Cornell University, and received his M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University. He has been the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, California and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia University. Victor is the author of the short-story collection Slapboxing with Jesus and the novel The Ecstatic, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
Photo credit: E. Raboteau

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