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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Lisbon
Fat Possum
Tristan Egolf
Kornwolf
Grove Press

Rating: 6.5/10 ?


November 30, 2006
Nary a review of Kornwolf, the third and final novel from Tristan Egolf, can be found without mention of the author's untimely (or, if you are the publishing house, perhaps not) fate by his own hand, and why should this one be any different? While Egolf - the son of a right-wing National Review hack father and a painter mother - does show a strong understanding of plot development, character arcs and other mechanics that elude most young writers, the fact that the lion's share of text in any Kornwolf review one might come across is dedicated to the author and not the work should serve as at least a moderate indictment of his overall success. While treading upon the graves of suicidal artists isn't necessarily foreign territory to me (raise your hand if you remember that Elliot Smith editorial!), in Egolf's case I find it necessary to remember him not for what he was, but rather what he wasn't: unoriginal.

The sparsely ornamented hardback cover of Kornwolf, which is Egolf's follow-up to the modestly received yet grossly underestimated (how no screenwriters out in LA have seen the obvious possibilities paralleling the David Fincher-directed Fight Club is beyond me) second novel, Skirt and the Fiddle, caught my eye for no particular reason. It wasn't until I'd glanced over the jacket description and grazed upon the idea of an Amish werewolf for a few moments that I decided the book was a must-read. Okay, and the mysterious birth and death dates for the author, with no substantiating information as to how or why he would not be writing after Kornwolf also gave the book some appeal.

The novel opens with a scattered, italicized first-person account of a ramble of mayhem through the broken countryside of Pennsylvania, and the words are enough to draw a reader in for the long haul:

…tearing through bull-thistle, jimsonweed, supplejack-brittle with mid-autumn coming of frost-and of pulsating crimson, appendages thwarted and stumbling, slam into fallen timber, as worm-ridden slick with organic decay-to meandering blindly through goldenrod, inkberry, sheep laurel, bladdernut, Solomon's seal-a prickling rash of woodland nettles-cries emanating from lurch of within, as of burning of flame now, at once underfoot-down embankment and plunging headlong into watercress, chilly with runoff from fertilized fields, and of crippling thirst satiated in excess-then up again, scrambling, mud on the incline, jagged escarpment, then over to stillness…

But, short of a brief return to the first person of the Kornwolf later in the book, the vibrancy and jumbled elegance of those words are an anomaly. Egolf is not to Stephen King what Marc Bojanowski is to Hemingway. That is not to say that Egolf couldn't write - quite the contrary. His storyline is unique, his characters almost universally well developed (there's even a bit of overkill when he delves into the lineage of the Kornwolf that runs back to the Thirty Years War in Europe), and the sarcasm and wit with which he arms the key players is thoroughly honed. Egolf even goes the extra mile and develops a few sub-plots to flesh out supporting characters and throw shadow over any quick conclusions that could be drawn. But the stylistic depth that no doubt would have solidified in subsequent novels, had Egolf not shot himself in the head early in May of last year, is within the pages of Kornwolf still too rough. There are too many shortcuts taken and cheap humor employed (the bumbling sheriff at the helm of a corrupt and belligerent police force is named Buster Highman) without enough of a payoff. After nearly four hundred pages, when it was all said and done I was still more captured by the buzz of the idea of a book about an Amish werewolf than I was by the pull of what I'd actually read. Kornwolf is easily an improvement over Tristan Egolf's previous works, and it no doubt will solidify his reputation as one of America's best young writers that never was.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth

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