By Nathan Tyree (Gozu Press; 2000-09)
This novella, the first by Nathan Tyree, has been a cult mainstay since its initial publication in 2004. After reading this newly revised “Director’s Cut” version, which contains a retrospective introduction by the author and several newly written footnotes, I fully understand the book’s popularity. It’s a stunner pure and simple, a hair-raisingly gruesome yet disarmingly wise and philosophical account.
It begins like FIGHT CLUB, with the severely disgruntled Overby stuck in a dead-end job and finding himself perpetually at odds with the world. His existence seems to become if not enlightened then at least enlivened when he meets Walter, an alcoholic tough guy who shares Overby’s misanthropy. But Walter harbors profoundly unsavory secrets that become clear midway through, at which point the narrative takes a most alarming turn into HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER territory. It’s here that Overby has his titular fall, unleashing his anger and torment upon an unsuspecting world.
Yet there’s a further twist in store–a big twist that puts everything into an entirely different, even more disturbing context. It’d be unfair to give the surprise away (I’ve probably revealed too much as it is), as MR. OVERBY’S unpredictability is a large part of its brilliance–that and the riotously compelling prose. This is one of those books you’ll have a mighty difficult time putting down once you’ve started reading, regardless of how ugly it gets. Yes, it’s a rough read, but also a skilled and ultimately edifying one that despite the twisty narrative never loses its footing.
There is, however, one fairly grievous flaw, and it’s likely due to the fact that this is a revised edition. I’m referring to an early chapter in which Overby stalks a woman with the intent of killing her that inexplicably occurs before the revelation of Walter’s true nature, and so lessens the shock of the revelation immeasurably–and also blunts the protagonist’s own descent into murderous insanity, which obviously has less of an impact if he’s already there. I’m guessing the offending chapter was cut from the book’s initial version, and frankly it’s better off left out.