HystopiaBook - 2016
"By the early 1970s, President John F. Kennedy has survived several assassination attempts and--martyred, heroic--is now in his third term. Twenty-two-year-old Eugene Allen returns home from his tour of duty in Vietnam and begins to write a war novel--a book echoing Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-Five--about veterans who have their battlefield experiences "enfolded," wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy. In Eugene's fictive universe, veterans too damaged to be enfolded stalk the American heartland, reenacting atrocities on civilians and evading the Psych Corps, a federal agency dedicated to upholding the mental hygiene of the nation by any means necessary.This alternative America, in which a veteran tries to reimagine a damaged world, is the subject of Hystopia, the long-awaited first novel by David Means. The critic James Wood has written that Means's language "offers an exquisitely precise and sensuous register of an often crazy American reality." Means brings this talent to bear on the national trauma of the Vietnam era in a work that is outlandish, ruefully funny, and shockingly violent. Written in conversation with some of the greatest war narratives from the Iliad to the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," Hystopia is a unique and visionary novel"--
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE
At the bitter end of the 1960s, after surviving multiple assassination attempts, President John F. Kennedy is entering his third term in office. The Vietnam War rages on, and the president has created a vast federal agency, the Psych Corps, dedicated to maintaining the nation’s mental hygiene by any means necessary. Soldiers returning from the war have their battlefield traumas “enfolded”—wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy—while veterans too damaged to be enfolded roam at will in Michigan, evading the government and reenacting atrocities on civilians.
This destabilized version of American history is the vision of twenty-two-year old Eugene Allen, who has returned from Vietnam to write the book-within-a-book at the center of Hystopia. In conversation with some of the greatest war narratives, from Homer’s Iliad to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” David Means channels the voice of Allen, the young veteran out to write a novel that can bring honor to those he fought with in Vietnam while also capturing the tragic history of his own family.
The critic James Wood has written that Means’s language “offers an exquisitely precise and sensuous register of an often crazy American reality.” In Hystopia, his highly anticipated first novel, David Means brings his full talent to bear on the crazy reality of trauma, both national and personal. Outlandish and tender, funny and violent, timely and historical, Hystopia invites us to consider whether our traumas can ever be truly overcome. The answers it offers are wildly inventive, deeply rooted in its characters, and wrung from the author’s own heart.
"A visionary first novel taking place in an alternate version of Vietnam-War-era America"--
Describes an alternate history where JFK survived and created an enormous federal agency, the Psych Corps, charged with keeping American citizens happy, even if it means erasing their memories, a practice that is particularly handy for returning Vietnam veterans.