"U.S.!" is a G.A.S.
By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 28, 2006 1:00PM
When we read the back cover of “U.S.!” by Chris Bachelder, we were a little worried. The story is about Upton Sinclair (muckraker and Chicago icon), living in a world where he is resurrected over and over, only to be assassinated over and over. The cover told us the novel would take place with “stories and songs, memos and transcripts of talk shows”. We let out a sigh and dove in, prepared to be bored and underwhelmed by over-achievement and pretentious “creativity”.
Whoo, were we pleasantly surprised. "U.S.!" is hilarious, sad, poignant, political and totally readable.
Poor Sinclair has been resurrected from the dead some fourteen odd times. The men who assassinate him are famous; each one trying to outdo the other when they hear Upton is back. Sinclair is a bit of a laughingstock, trying too hard to change people politically, writing hundreds of additional books, all political, none interesting. The world thinks of him as "not even a politician or an economist. He's a writer."
The out-of-the-box narrative is awesome, garnering quite a few giggles from us; things like this entry in his diary:
Shot without pants. (Jan. 84)
Or this from our favorite section, the “Upton Sinclair jokes”:
Upton Sinclair walks into a bar. It’s a pretty rough place. Bartender says, 'What’ll it be, old timer?' Sinclair says, 'Do you have cranberry juice? I’m parched.' So, the bartender shoots him with a gun.
All in all we loved “U.S.!”. We’ve been handing it out to everyone we know; at least the people we know that like their books a little on the wacky side.