I read Noah Cicero's fifth novel, The Insurgent, with great interest, as I am a fan of his work. I read his first book, The Human War, while still residing in Youngstown, Ohio, the place that Noah is from and that he writes about with such eloquence, sadness and truth.
He's a young man still, and it's painful to realize in this day of dissappearing bookstores and interest in fine things, such as literature, that Noah still struggles to make a living, given the calibre of his work and his achievements to date. This includes The Insurgent, which is about disenchantment, oppression, and death of many sorts.
Noah's work, written with enormous intensity, is presented usually line by line in his texts, so the reader can feel the full impact of meaning in the language. It's a minimalist style that works. The result is a breathless pace, dialogue that often resonates like the script of some amazing existentialist theatre work, and characters that impale the reader with their suffering and authenticity. Noah's characters are desperate loners who rant about injustices and rarely muster the courage to set themselves free.
As was true with The Human War, which was published in 2003, and recently made into a film, The Insurgent is set in Youngstown, which is, the narrator Vasily notes, "a small third-world country located inside of America." Vasily is a Russian dishwasher, and his best friend Chang, an obsessive compulsive, who can't seem to get rid of the need to wash himself; the two of them drink, pine for women, lust for better lives and, through an accident of fate, wind up with enough money to "get out of Dodge" and head west.
It's not a trip like Kerouac and his pals made, but a desperate escape out of the mire of tedium in poverty-riddled mundanity into the silence of nature and the vast expanses of untamed America, which hold still the power to reawaken hope and dreams. Despite the encounters that turn out to be fiascos on this journey, the dream of hope prevails.
The Insurgent has some of the most gorgeous rants on the nature of death and being that I've read in literature in recent years. The characters and their lives are described in aching detail, and what I find most amazing about this read -- it was also true about The Human War -- is that instead of being depressingly dark, it lifts up, illuminates because it is true.
When The Human War, the film, comes out, see it, if that's what it takes to read Noah's books. But if you are a reader and care about the art of literature and where it purports to take us as human beings, for god's sake pick up his books too. The Insurgent, published in 2010, is available from Blatt Books. You can find out more about Noah Cicero and his writing via his blog, at http://noah-cicero.blogspot.com/