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Jim Knipfel. The Buzzing.

Vintage, 2003. 259 pp. $12.00.

Roscoe Baragon, the hero of this wonderfully zany and grim novel, is a reporter. He cannot take news seriously--he realizes that the usual catastrophes don't really interest him. All reporters repeat the same items about terrifying serial killings, child abuse, leaked Washington copy on health care, government projects for the public good. Baragon expresses himself in what he calls the Kook Beat--those events that are so bizarre, they must be true: "Now there was only a great, empty, echoed buzzing where the story used to be." And he begins to speculate that seemingly unrelated things are possibly linked: an unusual earthquake in Alaska; the disappearance of poor, wounded roomers from halfway hotels; the corporation of SVA, which owns these hotels. He lists the bizarre events that are occurring. Baragon thinks: "conspiracies, moreover, also help make the normal redundancies of life a little more bearable." At the same time, he believes that his referential mania is somehow more real than other paranoias. And as the novel moves to its end, we wonder--as does Baragon--whether there are secret patterns or only the lunatic ramblings of Kooks. The Buzzing then becomes an antiparody of conspiracy theories, or a very accurate rendering of a true conspiracy. Is Baragon mad? Is the world mad? The last page leaves us unsure. Baragon leaves the paper, trying to calm himself as he sings a "sweet Malaysian tune ... He knew full well it wouldn't help. Still, he figured, it was worth a shot." What is it? Baragon puzzles over his account. Where will he go? Perhaps he will go to the library and read Pynchon, who, by the way, offers a blurb for this novel, citing Knipfel's "cheerfully undeluded American voice." The Buzzing is either undeluded or deluded or overdeluded.
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Author:Malin, Irving
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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