Caleb J. Ross' booklikes

The official booklikes blog of author Caleb J. Ross.

Not for Nothing - Stephen Graham Jones

Reading Stephen Graham Jones is like being on a manhunt for a double amputee. Even when I get him, I don't get all of him.


Nick Bruiseman is a has-been PI who lives in a storage locker in Stanton, Texas. A small town, 3,000 people, where everyone knows everyone. So when Bruiseman gets hired, things turn incestuous quickly.


The book will be released in March 2014. If you are a fan of detective novels and oral storytelling, then I definitely recommend it. But know, you're going to have to work for your reward.


I've read a lot of Stephen Graham Jones (show stack), and I've thoroughly enjoyed just about all of it.


Jones is an evasive storyteller, very difficult to pin down and with plots that are often difficult to follow. And I think with Not For Nothing, his 18th book, I've finally figured out why.


First, his very conversational approach to storytelling, much like one would imagine a storyteller around a campfire. His sentences are often very beautiful, but made so by disregarding some grammatical conventions. He's fine with sentence fragments and orders extra commas like their free. He's an oral storyteller above all else, I think. He just happens to write the stories down.


Second, his dialog is full of non sequiturs. When used sparingly, a non sequitur can describe the relationship between characters better than anything else. Don DeLillo is the king of this. But when every exchange has that "inside joke" feel, it can be difficult for a reader to establish a firm footing with the characters.


Third, Jones uses very, very, very little "refresher" text, text used to reminder the reader of important characters and events. When you're reading a 267 page book, it's necessary to be reminded often why characters, events, or places are important, or even just to be reminded why we should care about a particular name. Jones doesn't do this very often. I chalk this up to Jones being a mad genius. Honestly, I think Jones' brain operates so quickly that to him, something briefly mentioned 250 pages ago is still as fresh in his mind as something mentioned 2 pages ago.


Fourth, characters are often introduced quickly only to be forgotten for full chapters before being introduced again. They aren't allowed to stick. Now, for a book like Not for Nothing, where new names seem to pop up every few pages, I'm left trying to re-familiarize myself with characters constantly.


If all of these things seem to you like they'd contribute to a very confusing story, you're right. His stories can be confusing. Incredibly at times. But often, that's the appeal. Much like tracking down our aforementioned legless fugitive, the thrill for me is watch the unfamiliar and at times erratic escape path. To fully capture the fugitive, all four limbs intact, might not be very satisfying. Because then you've got just another convict in custody. Where's the fun in that? Who wants to read just another detective story?