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The Last Hiccup by Christopher Meades
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The Last Hiccup (2012)

by Christopher Meades

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(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

This quirky piece of literary fiction almost exactly illustrates, nearly as a textbook example, the inherent problem of writing quirky literary fiction; that once you get past the quirky gimmick that draws people in (here, the tale of a boy in 1930s Russia who starts hiccuping one day, and literally doesn't stop for decades), it can become an insurmountable challenge to come up with anything interesting after that, a common problem among academic short-story veterans who try taking on full-length novels. And so in author Christopher Meades' case, he adds a rambling, digressive plot that involves our hero being shuttled away to a sanitarium for years, to re-enter society just in time to not understand the profound changes to Russian society that Stalinism and World War Two have brought, and to get caught up in a series of adventures that help to illuminate Forrest-Gump-style many of the developments this part of the world saw in the early 20th century; and while this can be clever at times, and is definitely at least well-written, the vast majority of the book really has nothing to do with the titular gimmick at all, and in fact it's hard to understand what the hiccups are doing in this story in the first place other than to serve as a "running motif" off which to hang the bland, underdeveloped plot, yet another common thing you see among academic veterans of short fiction trying to pad out one of their ideas into a full novel. Interesting for what it is, it's absolutely worth your time if you ever come across it at the library or on a friend's bookshelf, but I can't honestly encourage people to go and actively seek out a copy.

Out of 10: 7.9 ( )
  jasonpettus | Apr 30, 2012 |
I come here to praise Chris, not to fear him. I was a fan of his debut novel The Three Fates of Henrik Nordmark, an unceasingly silly chase novel that gave me no end of pleasure. So when approached, I gladly agreed to blurb his novel (a professional first!), for his sophomore effort The Last Hiccup is everything I look for in a novel; funny, weird, vaguely historical, barely linear, ambiguous, and saturated with synchronous diaphragmatic flutter. Having suffered from a lengthy bout of the devil's esophageal convulsions myself (seven days, no fooling), perhaps I'm inclined to sympathize with Vladimir, the young Russian boy who starts hiccuping at age eight and continues to do so for decades.

Read the rest of the review here. ( )
  ShelfMonkey | Apr 8, 2012 |
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Book description
Set in 1930s Russia, this darkly humorous, tragic, and ultimately heroic novel tells the tale of Vladimir, an eight-year-old Russian boy suddenly stricken with a chronic case of the hiccups. He soon finds himself spirited away to a Moscow hospital by the famous physician Sergei Namestikov, who puts him through a series of extraordinary—and often bizarre—treatments in an effort to find a cure. When Sergei’s chief medical rival, the brilliant Alexander Afiniganov, discovers that beneath Vladimir’s blank eyes lurks a pure, unbridled evil, he takes steps to remove the child from polite society. Abandoned by everyone but his hiccups, Vladimir decides to return to the world he once knew, encountering many strange people and situations along the way. Funny, poignant, and surreal, this is a close look at the nature of good and evil filled with a dazzling cast of characters.
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Set in 1930s Russia, this darkly humorous, tragic, and ultimately heroic novel tells the tale of Vladimir, an eight-year-old Russian boy suddenly stricken with a chronic case of the hiccups. He soon finds himself spirited away to a Moscow hospital by the famous physician Sergei Namestikov, who puts him through a series of extraordinary--and often bizarre--treatments in an effort to find a cure. When Sergei's chief medical rival, the brilliant Alexander Afiniganov, discovers that beneath Vladimir's blank eyes lurks a pure, unbridled evil, he takes steps to remove the child from polite society. Abandoned by everyone but his hiccups, Vladimir decides to return to the world he once knew, encountering many strange people and situations along the way.… (more)

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