Working in the tradition of Beckett, or Bernhard, Maierhofer cuts his self-loathing with tenderness, with melancholy, with deadpan wit and vulnerability.
Shame is a daring exploration of the potential and limits of memory and self. Here we meet Grant Maierhofer at various points within his life then, now, and in the future as he investigates the sense of shame that haunts the course of his days. The real and unreal, fact and fiction, blur together in a Kaufmanesque sequence of overlapping narratives about who we really are, how we cope with regret, and the repetitions of our behavior.
Through lists, fragments, recollections, and rants, the story of a son’s vexing grief for his father emerges. A sober addict trying to figure out how to navigate pleasure, diversion, and escape. A father trying to figure out marriage, children, maturity, and responsibility. A confused observer in a world constantly torn apart by media, politics, and aggression. A meditation on the nature of art, and art’s place in contemporary life.
At a time when the novel seems caught between the twin pillars of autofiction and agitprop, Grant Maierhofer’s Shame brings us something new. Working in the tradition of Beckett, or Bernhard, Maierhofer cuts his self-loathing with tenderness, with melancholy, with deadpan wit and vulnerability. The result is a book that feels unlike any other I can think of: supple, kaleidoscopic, at once intimate and vast. A novel that seems — somehow — practically infinite.
It’s like Kafka’s cockroach. It’s like Stephen Daedalus yammering metaphysics. It’s like Robert Lowell’s ill spirit sobbing. It’s like Henry Miller stumble drunk. It’s like Kerouac in Mexico, wild, undisciplined, pure, the crazier the better. Thus the sordid erudition and crazy wisdom of Grant Maierhofer’s Shame.
Naked, wry, obsessed with loss, fear, existential shock before our hyperbolic now, Grant Maierhofer’s Shame is a stunning innovative serpent ever in the act of swallowing its own wounded, hyperaware tail and tale, reminding us on every page that nonfiction is nothing if not a troubled and troubling suburb of fiction where the self can honestly be told only in a series of jittery approximations.
Alternately raw, fiery, poetic, and sentimental, the author’s take can … show levity, as when describing tender moments with his wife … when Maierhofer’s cathartic ruminations hit, they hit hard.
Even when writing of intimacy, or of nostalgia, or of recovery, Grant Maierhofer lurks where others won’t, or can’t. Read him like a cult icon returned in phantom-form from the edge of the end of the world, because it’s true.
A collection of related stories that deal with the anxiety, pain, and ennui of addiction and withdrawal
Drain Songs gathers five stories and a novella focused on the many trials of modern life—addiction and depression, mania and disorder, attempts and failure at keeping the worst at bay. Grant Maierhofer’s stories focus on characters in varying states of disarray and stuckness, continuing his literary project of analyzing lives on the fringes of sanity and society. The novella “Drain Songs” is a harrowing narrative focused squarely on addiction and recovery, twelve-step programs, and codependency.
In all of these tales, Maierhofer takes a bee’s-eye view of protagonists from all walks of life, from the working class to the academy, from janitors to professors, embodying the commonalities of men and women struggling with very fundamental elements of survival, perspective, and identity—attempts formal and informal to contend with the trials that forever engage and perplex humanity.
His evocative prose conveys both despair and resignation as well as stultifying, brain-deadening routine and repetition. Still, these stories transcend angst and tilt toward agony and ecstasy and the hope of redemption.
Mr. Maierhofer writes like one exploring his own nervous system armed with only a scalpel and the language of his forebears. The title novella is a galvanizing and intimate confession of an addict of the American canon of miseries, a genuinely worthy nod to Berryman and Co.
Drain Songs is witty, brutal, tender, and exquisitely unhinged. Grant Maierhofer’s prose is a magnificent fire fueled by the treasures and trash of the last 100 years. It lights new paths into the darkness.
In Grant Maierhofer’s Drain Songs, characters stagger through each physical second, searching, struggling to comprehend lives that are long stretches of steps after steps, their voices a frantic chorus of suffering and addiction and surviving.
If you’re looking for a tale of redemption or recuperation, don’t read Grant Maierhofer’s Drain Songs. Always, “a young man leaves the meaning as it’s getting underway.” If, however, you suspect that a more ready-to-hand language would not get it right, “it” being the effort of the blasted mind of the addict, still wanting, still reaching for “one more step into some kind of beyond or unknowing that makes all the monotony worth it,” then you will find this book a revelation.
Grant Maierhofer’s new short fictions, while akin in their fascinating skill and totalizing spirit to his brilliant work in the novel, are nonetheless startling in their deceptively unobtrusive real lifelike presence. Drain Songs removes even more potential obstacles to his talent.