Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Review: Looking For Bigfoot by Mike Palecek

This is a review from The Briar Cliff Review of Looking For Bigfoot by Mike Palecek. the book is now available from Howling Dog Press


This is not reading for the faint of heart. If Jeremiah were alive in Iowa, his name would be Mike Palecek, a writer/activist who's done time for antiwar civil disobedience and written six powerful books before this one. You remember, Jeremiah showed up with some nasty comments when King Solomon was telling the citizens that everything was fine. Here's a taste of our own critic, then:

Is this Heaven?? Nope, Iowa. It's Iowa, where everything good is bad. All the good stuff about this state is sour, bitter, spoiled. Because this state is for the war. These people are for the war. They support the troops, the war. They kill children and anyone else who gets in their way as they drive to Hy-Vee for the special on iceberg lettuce.

But you may be asking, isn't this a novel? Yes, a fine one, and those are the words of Jack Robert King, who has left his home -- the Field of Dreams farmhouse -- in search of Bigfoot and his old baseball coach Larry Moore. In the meantime, he also broadcasts Bigfoot Radio through the internet (free speech indeed, to whomever is listening). The bus ride is full of little adventures and fascinating characters,
and the energetic style definitely makes this one a page-turner. Here I feel obliged to try to place Palecek among his literary forbears. His dedication page has a list of authors ranging from Sinclair Lewis to Hunter Thompson to George Orwell, good company. A few more who came to my mind are Franz Kafka, Jack Kerouac (On the Road) and even late Tolstoy. Jack Robert King is the kind of character we love to follow
even if we might not want to spend days next to him on the bus. He's full of a delicious combination of ethical and political outrage, love for his country's ideals, a keen detective's nose, appreciation for ordinary (read: powerless) people, and of course the mythic quest drawing him across the country. And unlike Hunter Thompson, if Jack Robert King is insane, he is so unaided by any drugs unless you count American hypocrisy. If we can believe that America is a peace-loving
people and that George Dubya Bush is always truthful, then why can't we believe in Bigfoot or the aliens who crashed near Roswell, or that there were conspiracies to kill the Kennedys and Martin Luther King. "Eternal vigilance," said abolitionist Wendell Phillips, "is the price of liberty." So, who do you believe if you can't believe our own government?

But, you're thinking, but what about the mythic quest? Does he find Bigfoot and his old coach? Well, that would be telling. You'll just have to get on the bus and spend a few compellingly enjoyable days reading to find out. I will say this, though, he returns home to the Field of Dreams and his beloved wife and kids and the novel's not quite over even then.

Highly recommended.

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