Loser Lit: John McNally's After the Workshop, Peter Bognanni's The House of Tomorrow, and James Greer's The Failure

Failed again! Scribblers, orphans, and punks fumble through life in three new novels

Not that there isn't one: The Failure revolves around a Korean check-chasing robbery that goes horribly wrong and more or less kills off the main character, Guy Forget, on the first page. Luckily, winking chapter heds—"The Villain Sven Transvoort, still in his undisclosed location, talks about Guy's background, and makes broad, mostly nonsensical generalizations about culture"—navigate us forward and backward through time. A YouTube viral video involving Guy's buddy getting mauled by a mountain lion, a "Web 3.0" subliminal advertising application codenamed "Pandemonium," and opium all feature in the plot, such as it is, but Greer is after bigger questions than who ultimately got his main character killed. (Hint: It's the guy with "Villain" in front of his name.)

Guy is that perfect punk existentialist, able to see through everything while at the same time having no earthly clue what that skill might gain him. "Someday I will follow through," is his motto. "I just don't know with what, exactly." Credit Greer for making him the hero anyway.

Literary escort service: After the Workshop's McNally
Amy Knox Brown
Literary escort service: After the Workshop's McNally

Details

After the Workshop
By John McNally
Counterpoint, 268 pp., $15.95

The House of Tomorrow
By Peter Bognanni
Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 354 pp., $24.95

The Failure
By James Greer
Akashic, 201 pp., $15.95

zbaron@villagevoice.com

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