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book review:

Between Nowhere and Happiness

Tagged as an uncommon tragedy where the main character Arthur wanders in and out of many social and cultural quanda­ries of modern time, one could argue that Kline’s novel is actually exploring the quandaries that have long plagued mankind. Specifically, Arthur’s quest throughout this novel has him exploring everyone’s tenuous connection to oth­ers. A loner and drug addict, Arthur drifts from living in a trailer and working in a restaurant to living with two friends and unemployed. When Smiles, one of Ar­thur’s roommates, is wanted for theft, Ar­thur helps him make the decision to flee to Mexico with a borrowed passport.

With nothing tying him down, he de­cides to go along for the ride and help his friend flee the long-arm of the law. Through their travels, they dabble in drugs and sex, meeting many addicts and rouse­abouts along the way. Their quest to blast themselves into oblivion lends a driftless and disengaged quality to their life. While Arthur travels throughout Mexico, it is obvious that he is a passive member in his own life and his shiftlessness is made more poignant because at times Arthur implicitly seems to desire connecting with someone on a deeper level. However, throughout the novel, Arthur is on the outside look­ing in. He is never fully engaged in the act of living, and when he finds himself getting too close to someone, he specifi­cally drugs himself into oblivion or walks away. When he assesses the people around him, he is constantly referring to how they “seem” a certain way, without ever defin­ing an acquaintance in concrete terms. The only person throughout the novel that is described concretely is Arthur’s long time friend and pen pal Francis. Eventually, Ar­thur decides to leave Smiles and head back to the United States to meet up with Fran­cis. This reunion doesn’t quite resonate in the way Arthur envisioned and his quest throughout this novel emphasizes the des­peration, loneliness and warmth that hu­man connections can bring. (Sara Ritchie)

by Daniel Kline, $10, 223 pgs. Smallhand Press, Brooklyn, New York smallhandpress.net

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