!!!!!SPOILERS!!!!LEAVE!!!!SPOILERS!!!!YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE ANYWAY!!!SPOILERS!!!!LEAVE!!!!
Okay, my first impression of Eric Loesch, the chatty narrator, was "what an asshole!" My second impression was "what a pompous, smug, eremitic asshole!" My third impression, well, I decided to see how bad this braggart could harm himself. I mean, he does fall into a punji stake pit by page 72. And, at the same time, I realized I was in the hands of a very sly and gifted author, the tongue-in-cheek kind of author. When the critics compare his protagonists to John Yossarian and Randle McMurphy, well, that's enough for me to read on.
A middle-aged man has come to Gerrysburg, a small town in upper New York state, decaying from changing lifestyles yearning for more modern pursuits and behaviors found elsewhere. Eric grew up in this town, although people remember the double death of his parents and not him so much. He has suffered some mental collapse, presumably, and seeks stable ground. He buys a fixer-upper on about 600 acres of barely-penetrable forest, although he is disturbed to see a large, granite rock "jutting out from the carpet of trees," somehow reminding him of a great whale(1) breaking the calm sea with "its imposing nature"(10). After shingling on a new roof and painting the porch, he notices the deed papers indicate a small square of land located next to the rock that is not owned by him, and the name of the possessor has been expurgated.
Time for a hike, wouldn't you say?
Getting to know Eric Loesch is not to like him much. He's a know-it-all, and bully enough to brow-beat anyone's opinion into open hostility. He accuses the real estate agent of coming on to him, embarrassing her to sputtering anger. He tells experts in the hardware store how to do their job. He rides people who ask simple questions of interest about him with stinging elocution like, "what is awkward is the need to deflect your attention away from my private business"(19). He is stand-offish, bitter, and definitely misanthropic. When the only remaining member of his family—his sister, Jill—who has led "clearly a wasted life"(p.44), shows up, he becomes enraged and tells her to leave.
Things don't go a hell of a lot better in the woods. Equipping himself like a true Eagle Scout, he fights through the forest toward The Rock down an overgrown pathway a white deer has shown him(2). He explains its whiteness as mutation not portention. His ever-faithful watch stops, making him realize he's walked far beyond what the time should allow. The first fall into a pit with stakes he manages to escape unharmed; the second time, not so much. Also, his backpack goes missing after his first excursion. All the while saying things like, "I have never been one to indulge in creature comforts: the only real comfort was success"(p.74).
Then he finds the castle (p.81).
This is one of those moments so eloquently stated by Ricky Ricardo: "Luuucyeeee, youse got sum explainin' to do!" Backstory recollections have already been tainted and fuzzy enough to label Eric an unstable narrator. Since there's still two-thirds of the book to traverse, the withholds must be real avalanches. And they are. Any conscientious bookworm would start turning back pages to see what they'd missed. No, this is not some dumb, black-hole time warp shit. The genre is not Magical Realism or Supernatural. What happens is supposed to happen in this synergistic reality, I think.
My take on it is HERE