Eduardo Aquifer


Jeff Hunt
Eduardo Aquifer and the Great Tanning Incident
Livingston Press
158 pages, $14.95

I don’t think there’s an English verb to fict. There should be. The narrator of Jeff Hunt’s novel is a compulsive fictor. In fact, he is (at one level of the fictional universe he weaves) an inmate in a psychiatric facility where his doctor, convinced he is “avoiding life, always escaping by making up stories,” puts him up against the wall and searches his pockets to see whether he has started writing again. While being patted down, he can’t help sliding off into imagination. “So what sent you off into fiction-land this time?” the doctor asks.

The book is about this need to fict. It is also about Texas, weird jobs (and the attendant “steadily decreasing ability to say yes sir”), American history, ’70s rock, an admirable granny, the way a young man feels around a woman (“I wanted to go build a whole house, all by myself, using only hand tools”), and particularly about a male unhappiness, a melancholia, a general malaise that the narrator’s family calls The Terror.

When I was a kid, my grandfather was asked by his grown daughter to see a psychiatrist. After a while, making it clear he was humoring them, he agreed to go. He’d put on his suit, put his gold pen in his pocket, and let them drive him down to the doctor. He walked into the office, his suit on and his gold pen in his pocket, practically chuckling to himself about how silly this all was. No one knows what was said behind those doors, but they hospitalized him an hour later.

As a boy, the narrator (who sometimes goes by the name Eduardo Aquifer, and is sometimes just called “The Writer”) prefers his friends’ moms to their dads, because it is clear how superficial the dads have made their lives, just to avoid facing this terror. Which is why The Writer and his faithful (if imaginary) Indian companion Waylon embark on a campaign “to bring the Terror to them, delivering it with the unnerving unspoken quality that a spooked adult knows as they drive through a game of kickball they’ve interrupted on the street.”

A book that can veer off into further levels of ficting at any moment can sometimes be difficult to keep in order in the reader’s head. (Okay, is this something imagined by a character in the story the guy in the mental institution is writing? Or is this . . . ) But if you tear up the stakes and let yourself drift with this story, it floats you past interesting scenery.

—L.A. Heberlein

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