Bliss Inc. by Ron Burch, Blaze VOX (2010), http://www.blazevox.org/bk-rb.htm, ISBN: 9781935402749, $18.00.
Ron Burch’s debut novel, Bliss Inc., reads like what all first time novelists hope for but few actually achieve: a fine piece of literature that can stand on its own. Burch doesn’t need important authors to sing his praises for him or to have his book sprayed with gushing blurbs about his prowess, even though he does, because his book is already good enough.
Kafkaesque at moments yet uniquely original in voice, Bliss Inc. sucks in the reader right from the first page when protagonist Nel Lowry begins his adventurous journey to the archetypal destiny “The City” and is flattened by an overweight woman while falling off of the bus. The mishaps just keep piling up after that as Lowry looks as though he may be swallowed up whole by the strange terrain of the urban frontier that is the book’s setting.
As the comedy of errors piles up the book maintains a serious tone throughout as glimpses of unfiltered humanity and emotion shine through. The story is layered in a way that allows the back-story to not impede upon the progress of the plot. Satirical in nature, Bliss Inc. is also a stunning portrait of what it means to inhabit a strange city, one where you’d be so lucky to have obtained a dead end job. Instead Lowry is thrown into the comedy of errors only an island of eight million people could provide while bouncing from one temporary job to the next.
The writing is masterfully executed allowing the reader to breeze through page after page with many laughs, several insightful moments and many relatable scenes. If I were to describe many of the scenes in the book I’d be hard pressed to relate it to another book because it’s unlike any book I’ve read in recent memory. In fact, some of the scenes bring Larry David’s show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to mind as I read about Lowry’s daily misfortunes. As I finished the book I was left satisfied but somehow wanting more. Not because the book left me unsatisfied but because it was so good that I wished there was more.
Burch has made the everyday difficulties of making a life for oneself extremely entertaining. While this isn’t the type of book I usually go for, Bliss Inc. has given me a solid introduction to the contemporary satirical novel. And at the end of the day if a book can open up entirely new doors of possibilities to the reader than the author has done something right.
Bliss Inc., as a whole, may not be for everyone but it definitely has a little something in the story for everyone. What excited me the most with this book was the fact that after reading it I was still at a loss for words as far as how to sum up the story in a few sentences. It’s scope is that far-reaching while still maintaining a sense of narrow focus on the main character.
Despite not entirely loving the actual plot of the book I’d give this book four out of five stars. Bliss Inc. is an extremely mature work of art for a debut author. If this book is any indication of Burch’s future than I’ll definitely be on the lookout for his sophomore work.
Patrick Trotti is a writer, editor, and student. His fiction has appeared in such publications as New Wave Vomit, The Legendary, and Sleep. Snort. Fuck. among others. He is the Founder and Editor of the online literary journal (Short) Fiction Collective, works as the Noir Fiction Editor for Voices From The Garage, and is a staff member of the online literary journal jmww.