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Against the Country: A Novel by Ben Metcalf

Against the Country: A Novel

by Ben Metcalf

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The excerpt in Lapham's Quarterly contained elegant and ascerbic observations on the difficulties of living close to nature. The book is openly anti-pastoral. It refutes the idea that a life lived on the land is a better life, with tales narrated by man dragged to rural Virginia by parents who tried out rural living. The narrative voice is a satirical echo of the New England transcendental voice of the hermit of Walden Pond, tinged with a satirical echo of the teenage voices of Holden Caulfield andf every writer of suburban teen ennui. .
While short and lucid, it is a difficult and tiring book. I gave up on it and returned it to the library. ( )
  BraveKelso | Sep 12, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Painfully pleasureable. Something compelled me forward, rather like looking at hoorid images in a medical encyclopedia. Not that it is gruesome, as those are, just a bit wrenching. I will never love this book, but then again I will never forget it either.
  lucybrown | Feb 20, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This blurb is one of the reasons I registered in the drawing for this novel: "Exceptional in its verbal brilliance and conscientiousness, AGAINST THE COUNTRY involves us in a family's anguished and hilarious struggle against the strange dooms that seem peculiar to white rural America. This is a savage and gladdening novel." Wow, huh? Sounds fabulous. "Verbal brilliance" and "hilarious struggle"? I should have loved this!

My first clue that I wouldn't was coming across the word "metafiction" in the inside cover synopsis. Perhaps I'm a plebeian, but I don't even know what "metafiction" means. However, if it means writing whole paragraphs in verbose, meandering, rhetorical questions that drip with condescension while maintaining a griping, complaining, I'm-so-much-better-than-my-background voice, then count me out.

I called it quits at page 47 because I had no desire to endure another 300 pages of someone with a superiority complex bitching about his childhood.

Thanks for nothing, LibraryThing. ( )
  avanta7 | Oct 22, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I just couldn't with this book. Against the Country is the painful ramblings of a man who hates, loathes and despises everything about Goochland County, Virginia and his father. It's the exact opposite of Thoreau's Walden Pond as Metcalf finds any excuse to rail against anything that encounters him in his rural existence.

If a reader isn't turned off by the pure negativity of the book, Metcalf's writing style will. The book is a soliloquy aching for empathy but is nothing more than a tangle of half-baked thoughts. Metcalf eschews traditional dialogue and character development for a stream of consciousness approach. With all of his diversions and thoughts within a thought, his writing style makes as much sense as using a smashed saltine cracker as a jigsaw puzzle.

Save yourself the time and skip this book. ( )
  acgallegos91 | Sep 10, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I only made it through two chapters. Normally I try to read at least 50 pages before DNF'ing, but I just couldn't handle the writing style anymore. It felt like I was reading an incredibly dense, pretentious, and rambling mess, with more commas and longer sentences than the ridiculous legal briefs I read all the time at work. No thanks.
  crazylilcuban | May 3, 2015 |
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"Set in the Virginia pines, and overrun with failed parents, racist sex offenders, cast-off priests, and suicidal chickens, this novel challenges literary convention even as it attacks our national myth: that the rural naturally engenders good, while the urban breeds an inevitable sin"--Dust jacket flap.… (more)

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