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Fight for Your Long Day
By Alex Kudera
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
Author Alex Kudera has been a friend to CCLaP in the past (specifically, he kindly participated in one of our virtual book tours a couple of years ago), which made me predisposed to really want to like his newest book, Fight for Your Long Day; and so that makes it even more heartbreaking than usual to have to report that the novel is only so-so, a good concept that unfortunately sort of loses its way as Kudera gets farther and farther into the manuscript. Essentially a black comedy set among adjunct professors, in a contemporary world where such positions have basically become the new serfdom among academic society, Kudera is clearly aiming for Confederacy of Dunces territory with his collection of absurdist characters and the ridiculous situations they all find themselves in; but what Kudera seems to have missed is that Dunces works precisely because our "hero" Ignatius J. Reilly is supposed to be the most over-the-top and loathsome character of all, while Long Day's hero Cyrus Duffleman comes across much more ambiguously, sometimes even as just some normal nice guy who is unfairly being subjected to all these absurdist things going on around him, and a novel like this becomes a much more troubling thing when you attempt to elicit actual sincere sympathy for the inadvertently comedic tool at the center of it all. Plus, let's just admit that Dunces largely gets away with all its outrageous statements about race and sexual orientation precisely because it was written in the early 1960s, so has the advantage of time and historical context to make its edgy characterizations go down more smoothly; but when Kudera attempts the same thing in a contemporary context here, for example like the classically educated black woman who deliberately speaks in ghetto ebonics while in class to make a political point, such gimmicks often come across as mean-spirited and borderline-racist, obviously not Kudera's intention but just a side effect of attempting such dark humor in a politically correct age. While it certainly gets an A for ambition, I found the actual execution of Fight for Your Long Day to be middling at best, and it comes today with only a tepid recommendation.
Out of 10: 7.5