Theodore Wheeler’s debut collection of fiction Bad Faith is a lesson in perfidy, deception, and duplicity—a contemplative exploration of the vagaries of the double-minded human heart. There are eight stories in the collection. Or are there fifteen? Alternating with eight fuller, more traditionally rendered stories are seven vignettes, whose narrative purpose becomes clear in the final, culminating story, “Bad Faith.”
In Bad Faith, Wheeler gives us drifters, truckers, handymen, squatters, runaways, and farmers. They are from Lincoln or Omaha, the big cities in Nebraska, or they live in the shadows of those looming cities. They don’t work the jobs they say they do; they don’t come from where they say they do. They are not entirely sure who they are. They hop freight trains; they drift; they join the army; they murder; they kill. Presenting themselves as better people than they really are, they also end up deceiving themselves into believing their own hype. No one is as simple as they seem and everyone wants more than they can have.
The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward: “National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.”
The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Magnus Mills: “Magnus Mills’s new novel takes its name from the site of a 1520 meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France, to improve relations between the countries as the Treaty of London deteriorated. It allegorically suggests a number of historical encounters on British soil: the coming of the Vikings, the coming of the Romans. But The Field of the Cloth of Gold sits firmly outside of time, a skillful and surreal fable dealing with ideas of ownership, empire, immigration, charisma, diplomacy, and bureaucracy.”
How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee: “Yongju is an accomplished student from one of North Korea’s most prominent families. Jangmi, on the other hand, has had to fend for herself since childhood, most recently by smuggling goods across the border. Then there is Danny, a Chinese-American teenager whose quirks and precocious intelligence have long made him an outcast in his California high school. These three disparate lives converge when they flee their homes, finding themselves in a small Chinese town just across the river from North Korea.”
Also this month: We’ll talk about Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe, Bad Faith by Theodore Wheeler, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control by Franz Nicolay, and Girl & Flame by Melissa Reddish.