Author Ryan C. Parmenter has dubbed his novel Hyperbole “the most violent comedy since The Bible.” While this description does not do it justice, it does paint a very accurate picture of the author’s satirical and incredibly witty sense of humor, which prevails throughout the book. There are countless passages that are so well-written, so brutally clever, that there were times in which I was jealous, actually envious that he wrote them and I didn’t. And that is perhaps the greatest compliment one author can pay to another.
Don’t get me wrong. Although there are moments that will make you laugh out loud, the book has its dark side, too, and a very dark one it is. Hyperboletakes place in the aftermath of the tragedy of “7/11,” in which Washington D.C. was obliterated, leaving a tremendous vacuum not just in the government, but in the lives of everyday Americans. The results of this catastrophe? A group of characters who might best be described as “slackers,” youngish people who lack drive or purpose and spend a great deal of time getting high. Indeed, whether it was intentional or not, there’s a definite Generation X/Y sensibility about the book. It reminded me quite forcibly of my own youth, in which many of us never bothered to make long-term plans because we figured that with the Cold War and all, the world was going to end before we grew up anyway. Imagine our surprise when the Soviet Union broke up and we suddenly had to find something to do for the next several decades, and you’ll understand how lost the characters in the novel feel in their own meaningless lives.
Yet they do find meaning. In strange, circuitous, unexpected ways, Harland and his friends somehow manage to do something, to contribute something to their vastly altered universe. And although they ultimately fail to accomplish their intended goal, such as it is, in the end what matters is that they make the effort. They find a reason to be, to continue to be. And that, it turns out, is enough.
Some readers might not enjoy Hyperbole. They may not appreciate the often dark sense of humor, or they may be offended by the rampant pot smoking, or they may not even care for the somewhat roundabout path by which the plot and the fate of the characters unfolds. But those readers will be the exception. And even to them I say, give it a try. Whether you like it or not, it’s an important book and it’s worth reading, even if it’s only to see, to feel what many people in this country are feeling. To understand the apathy and hopelessness of our generation, to comprehend how we, too, are struggling to find meaning. And most importantly, to recognize, as Hyperbole does, that the choice of who we want to be, of how we want to live, is ultimately ours. We merely must choose to make it.
It’s not a book for everyone. But everyone should read it.
About the author:
Lori Schafer’s flash fiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications, and she is currently at work on her third novel. Her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness, is being released in November 2014.