The rant is a venerable form, because it never feels venerable. Done right, it feels fresh, alive, electric. Steve Toltz displays his mastery of the form in his second novel, Quicksand, essentially a book-length dialogue between two friends, Aldo and Liam. Aldo is the motor-mouth and Liam is the blocked writer. Aldo is a walking disaster zone, full of bad ideas that he executes with half-hearted, ready-to-fail annoyance. Liam proposes to write his life story.
That’s all you need to break into a non-stop stream of read-aloud, quote-often, high-wit, dark views and laugh-aloud energy. The prose positively bristles with energy and invention. the true brilliance at work here is that Toltz manages to make these two men into magnetic, enjoyable characters, no matter how stupidly they behave. And it’s not that they are exactly stupid, but – relentless, focused in on some goal that clearly nobody else in the world can see but they.
In a just world, this book would be served up with a stiff drink at every bar in the world. It actually feels like a stiff drink to read, energizing and atomizing. It’s gritty and down-to-earth, but strangely fantastic as well. If you were looking for a monument to the power of the human mind to be determinedly weird, here your proof. It’s 90 proof. Strong stuff for a world that is apparently in the process of getting every damn thing it deserves. Oddly enough is actually much better than the world it observes. Our world.
I spoke to Steve Toltz about the art of the rant and his writing. You can hear the short version here.
Listen to it right now with that stiff drink.
Or line up your shot glasses and make up your drinking game here and now.