Review: New novel explores the life-changing power of art
“Now Is Not the Time to Panic”, by Kevin Wilson (Ecco) For the past 25 years, bestselling author Kevin Wilson has repeated to himself a semi-poetic, semi-absurd phrase that evokes self-mythologized bravado outlaw musicians: “The edge
“Now is not the time to panic”, by Kevin Wilson (Ecco)
For the past 25 years, best-selling author Kevin Wilson has repeated to himself a half-poetic, half-absurd phrase that evokes the self-mythologized bravado of outlaw musicians: “The Edge is a shanty town full of gold diggers. We are fugitives, and the law is starving for us.
The phrase has become “a kind of mantra”, he explained in promotional material for his latest novel, “Now Is Not the Time to Panic”, “a magic spell” that helped him cope to the painful and recurring thoughts he had experienced since his childhood. , later diagnosed as Tourette’s syndrome.
This phrase became the centerpiece of her new novel, a serious exploration of adolescence and the power of art to change lives. It’s narrated by best-selling novelist Frankie Budge, who writes subversive fanfiction about Nancy Drew and is devoted to her husband and daughter.
One day she receives a call from an art critic, who wants to know if she was responsible for a crude, handwritten poster that first appeared in Coalfield, Tennessee, some 20 years earlier, eventually becoming a global pop culture phenomenon.
She was, of course, and most of the novel is a long flashback to the events of that summer, when a 16-year-old Frankie teamed up with another misfit teenager, Zeke, to create a work of art with the “mentioned above” edge,” accompanied by Zeke’s vaguely menacing and apocalyptic illustrations.
At first glance, their DIY project, endlessly copied from an old Xerox machine and distributed everywhere, looks like harmless fun. But soon, for convoluted reasons that resonate in today’s conspiratorial world, it’s condemned as the work of the devil, garnering media attention, spawning copycats, and bringing hordes of strangers to town.
When, in the ensuing uproar, people die, Frankie and Zeke’s budding romance goes south, and no one ever talks about it again. Until Frankie gets that fateful phone call and has to consider the consequences of her and Zeke’s actions that summer long ago, and what it means to make art and get it out into the world.
Wilson, whose 2019 novel “Nothing to See Here” was about two children who spontaneously ignite when angry, created Frankie and Zeke – two quirky and engaging characters who can barely contain their own combustible mix of omnipotence and despair among teenage girls.
The novel falters a bit when Wilson is tasked with writing the adult Frankie, who acts and looks a lot like his junk-loving younger self, but overall he’s written a seductive and highly imaginative story that bespeaks the power of transformation. of art.
Ann Levin, Associated Press