Tom refers to his mesmerizing new book, Every Shallow Cut, as a “noirella” (a noir novella). It is a shame that more publishers (or more mainstream publishers) don’t publish novellas. When done correctly, they pack quite a punch. Tom takes full advantage of the form here, as ESC is meant to be experienced in a one-to-two hour sitting. It’s no accident, I think, that the length-of-read is essentially movie-length. We’re so used to our entertainment being chunked out to us in that format, part of the appeal is that we’re going through that similar temporal motion. Hell, sit with this book with a bag of popcorn and enjoy the downward spiral. Only, like great films that do achieve art, the ideas, themes, and emotions in Every Shallow Cut linger well beyond the two-hours spent.
The unnamed narrator is a struggling mid-list writer whose life, marriage, and career are going down the tubes and fast. He makes a trek from Denver to NYC, and to his estranged brother’s house (and agent’s office), with only his dog Churchill in tow. At times, the novella reads, almost uncomfortably so, as a type of metafiction, as if Tom is telling us way too much about himself. But then again; that’s the point. Whereas most stories about writers come off as preachy, self-absorbed, and myopic, ESC’s narrator is all of us. Almost beyond empathy and pathos, he is our collected fears, anxieties, and broken dreams. It’s those detailed broken dreams the narrator clings to that simultaneously makes him heroic and pathetic; it makes him us.
Every Shallow Cut is a wow read, folks.