“Sam takes her book out from her pack and begins flipping through the pages. ‘It is better to live on your knees than die on your feet – Emiliano Zapata,’ she recites defiantly to the towering phantom. I don’t know if she got the quote backward on purpose. In any case, it makes more sense to me this way.”
With poverty at an all-time high and food rations at an all-time low, the future imagined in ANARCHY AND OTHER LIES (Montag Press, November 2020, 978-1-940233-82-6, $15.95, Original Trade Paperback) by Jesse McKinnell is a bleak one. Jake begins his story in a comfortable place, working his modest office job as a silverware designer, but his life is suddenly upheaved by the layoff of his entire department. Newly unemployed and facing the same fate as millions of others who have wound up homeless in his city, Jake finds himself wandering the streets in a dazed state until he strolls near a familiar landmark- an old, condemned bridge over a toxic river. In the second upheaval of the day, the bridge collapses in an explosive terrorist attack. It is the first, but certainly not the last, bombastic attack he will bear witness to. In the following week, Jake has another fateful meeting with the manic-pixie-dream-anarchist behind the bridge attack, Sam, when she saves him from getting blown up alongside her newest target.
Immediately, Jake is caught up in the whirlwind that is Sam, a woman who leads a dangerous life of off the grid activism. Contrary to Jake’s profound ability to drift aimlessly through everything he has ever done, Sam seems to have a mission and strong driving convictions. Her want for revolution is infectious- digging its claws quickly into Jake and making him feel a spark of emotion for the first time in his drab, dull life. On the surface, it’s clear that Sam and her fellow partner in crime, Cap, want to enact change. They want to make people look up from their phones (or, in the case of this dystopia, their smart glasses) and see the state of the world, even for a few minutes. In time, though, the waters of her revolutionary dreams only become muddier and muddier, leaving Jake to ask: What does Sam really stand for? Does Jake want to support what seems to be chaos that is just as aimless as his former life? Is he a coward for wanting to return to the simplicity of protein bars, video games, and mind-numbing news cycles?
Jesse McKinnell’s new parodical novel ANARCHY AND OTHER LIES takes the reader a step not-so far outside of our current reality. Using dark humor and self-aware cynicism, McKinnell explores the climate surrounding modern political issues and how easy it is to fall into a pattern of both numbness and performative activism.
The dreary world that McKinnell paints is balanced with his dry wit, cautioning the reader against becoming too entrenched in either side of the spectrum of complete inaction or completely meaningless action. ANARCHY AND OTHER LIES touches on relevant topics- poverty, homelessness, dependency on technology, and the U.S. election cycles, to name a few.
About the Author
Jesse McKinnell is a writer living in southern Maine. His debut novel, Dead Cats and Other Reflections on Parenthood was published in May 2018 and was selected by Publishers Weekly as a semi-finalist for their 2017 Booklife Prize.
Anarchy and Other Lies
By Jesse McKinnell
Montag Press Collective
Publication Date: November 2020