“There’re always kneecaps that are screaming out, begging for us to shoot them, of course.” – Wonderful World
Thirty years ago, Lorenzo Girault was imprisoned for questionable activities in his antiques business. An undiagnosed pathology, referred to by his family as his “window problem,” led Lorenzo to live in rooms without windows and to membership in the “Down with the Sun Society.” After Lorenzo’s death, his son Lucas struggles to become the man he is sure his father wished him to be. Compelled by a need to understand the legacy left by his father, and determine exactly who was responsible for his father’s downfall, Lucas searches for clues in his Lorenzo’s secret apartment.
Lucas’s quest places him at odds with his mother and in the midst of two gangs in Barcelona’s seedy underworld. His best friend is Valentina, a 12-year-old girl who has fashioned herself as Europe’s top expert on Stephen King and who indulges in violent fantasies of retribution against her school chums. As Lucas sorts through the detritus of his father’s life, Valentina struggles with growing up, while all around them swirls a surreal cast: a giant, comic book obsessed gang enforcer; a strip club owner with a fondness for women’s coats; a dreadlock-sporting Russian underling with Rastafarian leanings; and an uptight art dealer for whom thoroughness is next to godliness.
Wonderful World, Javier Calvo’s first novel translated into English, if a film would be David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino’s love child; Lynch for the indescribable plot and Tarantino for the surreal, shocking violence. A feverish verbal joyride, Wonderful World pulls no punches. The quote at the beginning of this review is a typical line of dialogue; rapid-fire and edgy.
At times family drama, mob story, mystery and Hero’s journey, Wonderful World is a dizzying, multilayered construction that even includes excerpts from a fictitious Stephen King novel. Calvo’s cast is massive and the numerous plot lines almost requires story mapping to keep straight. Yet the quirky characters and chaotic plots are adeptly controlled by this talented author. Not for everyone, Calvo’s “open conception of narration” owes much to the Free Cinema movement, developed in the late 1950s and characterized by a deliberate lack of box office appeal.
Publication Date: March 17, 2009