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Does Not Love
By James Tadd Adcox
Reviewed by Chris Schahfer
James Tadd Adcox's first novel, Does Not Love, is a number of things, all of which revolve around the phrase "satisfyingly weird." If you've got a taste for the bizarre, you absolutely have to check this guy out, because he's pretty much written the craziest reinterpretation of the thriller since DeLillo got up on that in the mid-'70s. There's a lot reminiscent of that great, great writer here: bizarre circuitous dialogs full of deadpan humor, a crumbling relationship that reflects upon wider social disaffections, and a conspiracy that's at once capitalist and cabalist in its nature. Adcox's prose isn't as wondrous as DeLillo's, but then, there are very few living prose stylists on DeLillo's plane. I'm going back and forth on whether I would've preferred Adcox use more dazzling language. On the one hand, pretty sentences certainly never hurt a work of fiction, but on the other, Does Not Love moves forward just fine without them.
It's the sense of mystery that kept me reading this book, basically. There are a variety of other good things on display -- the humor, the weirdness of the story, the odd but effective modes of characterization (it's strange how Robert and Viola and the FBI agent are so peculiar and yet feel real) -- but what really makes it work out is the shadowy style. Does Not Love begins as an offbeat domestic drama with hints of something sinister, and as it gets rolling, it gets stranger and stranger, until it hits a bizarre and jarring and yet utterly appropriate climax. Which is to say that there isn't a lot here for fans of realism. This isn't quite deserving of my "I'd recommend it to everyone" rating mostly because it's too odd to recommend to everyone, not because of any lack of quality or failing on Adcox's part. He's just into his own thing.
I suppose that, if I were to complain about anything, it's that some of the novel's odder turns could've been foreshadowed a little better. That's not to say that I have to be perfectly set up for everything, but the escalation from a rather realistic if oddly portrayed romance into the complete insanity of what follows could've used a bit more of a breadcrumb trail. Perhaps flashes of news reports would've made the piece seem less like Adcox was saving the strangeness for the end. Then again, there is an FBI agent involved from early on, so maybe that's enough. I'm not sure. I am, however, quite sure that Does Not Love is a memorably odd and often hilarious read. The "good cop, bad cop" exchange is particularly brilliant, but really, it's the most fun you'll ever have with shadowy pharmaceutical conspiracies.
Out of 10: 9.0