Unconscious Knowledge by Beaird Glover


The first striking creative element of this novel is that the themes are taken from the lyrics of punk rock hits. A contradiction in terms if you ever heard one. And then it gets better.

If Truman Capote wrote a punk rock version of Bonnie and Clyde with a bit of Easy Rider thrown in, this would be the result. In case you’re wondering, the “unconscious knowledge” that we all carry within us is that “some people should die.” Who pulls the trigger is immaterial.

But looking at the story from a reader’s point of view, we get a different picture. From the horrendous upbringing visited on of several of the characters, we begin to get the idea that some people are destined to kill other people, and who is in their sights is immaterial.

And the triumph of the author’s writing skill is that we want these people to succeed. We are so fully drawn into the evils of their surreal world that we earnestly hope they will manage to escape from it, no matter how they accomplish their goal. This sets up a conflict between horror and hope that keeps us riveted to the book.

So off we go with Sydney and Marcy on a rampage of violence, zooming around the southern states, killing at will, but no one who doesn’t deserve to die. The pair are followed by another unlikely couple, Litton, the first black police chief of the area, and Blaine, his white teammate from a years-ago championship basketball team. History runs deep in the Deep South, in the plotline and in the blood of the characters, and it keeps coming back to haunt all of them.

My only complaint in this beautiful character pastiche is Blaine, who seems to morph from good guy into villain for no good reason and with no decent warning. This makes him seem more like a handy tool for the author rather than a real character like the rest of the cast. There are other convenient events, but these do not stretch our credibility so much, and since we dearly want them to happen, we’re happy when they do and not inclined to complain.

A wonderful romp through a dysfunctional society and through the minds and hearts of the least functional of its denizens.

Highly recommended for everyone, but especially rock fans of all sorts.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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