A SINGULAR VOICE MARRIED TO A DARK VISION: Imagine a New Jersey working-class Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy. Koelb’s style combines perfectly pitched dialogue, lush sentences, meticulous period detail, and penetrating psychological acuity.
A BOLD AND UNSPARING MEDITATION ON GENDER IDENTITY: Koelb’s portrayal of Abraham Kunstler is a dazzling play on notions of masculinity and power. There’s nothing overtly political about it, but it packs a major wallop.
UNUSUAL AUTHOR BIO: Although Koelb captures the culture and speech of Trenton amazingly well (as his editor has cause to know), he isn’t from South Jersey. Born in Brooklyn, he was raised in Belgium, went to college in Spain, attended graduate school in Paris and England, and has lived in Rwanda, East Africa, Uzbekistan, and other exotic locales since leaving school. He spent two years learning the Trenton patois by listening to old radio serials and reading period tabloids.
“Here is a novel of bewitching ingenuity, one whose darkling, melodic mind conceives a world of ruin and awe…Tadzio Koelb himself has made a novel worthy not only of New Jersey but of that exclusive fluorescence called art.”
—New York Times Book Review
“A transgressive, barbed-wire sharp debut.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“The honed-steel sentences on display here - vivid and sharp and scarily persuasive - are all the more harrowing for the vulnerability they manage to convey. Abe Kunstler is a singular protagonist, and Trenton Makes is a passionate and original first novel.”
—Garth Risk Hallberg, author of City on Fire
“A novel cut from the same startling bolt of literary cloth used by writers like Djuna Barnes, William Faulkner or James Baldwin. Trenton Makes is about America now. Not the one that gropes at phantom meaning in gilded towers; the one filled with fierce, indelible human beings who squint out, unblinking at the raw, beautiful, wrecked world.”
—Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome
“Trenton Makes, Tadzio Koelb’s debut novel, is lyrical, brutal, unorthodox, and brilliantly unsettling. Koelb’s tale of Abe Kunstler’s journey across gender and through mid-century American time daringly eschews all simplistic feel-good tropes and truisms about gender. It unflinchingly narrates the brutality which underlies the daily performance of masculinity. His understanding and vision are those of a novelist who dares to push the boundaries of 21st century thought. Trenton Makesis a book which I can only hope the world is ready for.”
—Robert Marshall, author of A Separate Reality
“This is the story of courage, of knife-edge need, of a battle to be oneself and stay oneself. Tadzio Koelb’s imagining of his unforgettable protagonist is as tough as it is compassionate; his prose seduces not just because it is stunning, but because it is uncompromising in its pursuit of one character’s mutilated truth.”
—Belinda McKeon, author of Tender
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