STORIES FROM THE ABYSS OF SELF
IN FEAR OF PRAISE
Food. Alcohol. Pornography. The films of Aki Kaurismäki. These are Gordon’s addictions. He’s divorced, he’s depressed, and his dog is dead. (Of lesser concern, his career as a professor of film studies is coming to an end.) There isn’t much left of his life to ruin. That is, until the daughter he always knew he had—but never wanted to meet—comes mysteriously creeping into the picture.
Her name is Dresden, and her mother is dying. Gordon would rather not engage. But romantic embarrassments with Monica Barnes, a colleague in the Media Arts department at Copperhead College, amid an eruption of hysterical student activism, drive him to flee back East. Back to his homeland. Back to the scene of his only true crime: procreation.
Against all of his instincts, Gordon plunges into a noirish search for Dresden, through a seedy New England underbelly crawling with drug dealers, pimps, and dreamless destitution. Finding her means learning that she lives in squalor—and that she is raising a son, Reggie, all on her own. In the face of these revelations, Gordon must search himself for untapped reserves of responsibility and grace. Most of the damage is done, yet perhaps something can be salvaged from the wreckage. His whole life now boils down to a single question: Is he man enough to be a father?
Even if so, it may be too late.
In Fear of Praise is at once a profane tale of middle-aged dating, a scandalous send-up of modern campus politics, and an irreverent take on father-daughter relationships. Above all, it is a scathing investigation into the deepest, darkest heart of manhood itself.
"Earth is gone. I watched that great milky-blue iris wink out like the closing of a black-lidded eye."
After the obliteration of Earth by a manmade black hole, an astronaut and his android pilot hurtle through the solar system in a luxury model escape craft. They may well be all that is left. With no destination and nothing much to do, they engage in psychological warfare. The weapons at their disposal: philosophy, theoretical physics, and semantics.
While our human narrator (a glorified gardener) spends his time reliving the last days of his life before the cataclysm or losing at solitaire, his android companion Crowley puts on the appearance of trying to make him happy--all the while driving him out of his mind.
A darkly comic testimony of loss, madness, and conflicted cohabitation, Nihil's Retina runs the math on the value of life after the end of the world and comes up just shy of zero.