With less than a week left in Funbruary, it’s going to be non-stop fun over here on the McNally Jackson Blog Experience. Usually the fun stops occasionally, but now: now I have lots of Funbruari (that’s the plural) to squeeze in before it’s March 1st and suddenly very warm and everyone is happy again. That’s how it works on March 1st, right? Today Miles Klee—he’s written for the Awl, Salon, the Observer, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency—picks Wigfield.
Three years after the seminal and side-splitting Strangers With Candy went off the air, co-creators Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello came out with a collage-like novel that pushed that show’s garbled clichés and pitch-black take on Nowhere, America to new and ever more bizarre places. Structured as a series of interviews conducted by hack journalist “Russel Hoakes,” who flails toward his publisher’s 50,000-word minimum with all the tact of a spoiled toddler, Wigfield tells the story of a grotesque shantytown about to be flooded out of existence via the destruction of its quite useless dam. Retarded mayors, violent cops, sad strip clubs and used tire yards—brought to life by Sedaris, Colbert and Dinello in black-and-white photography by American fashion designer Todd Oldham—characterize this open sore just off the highway, and each has a really stupid story to tell. Hokes himself, with his cringey metaphors and shamelessly padded paragraphs, is an execrable specimen as well, no better than the populace he documents and barely pretends to care about. As the citizens of Wigfield, driven to save their filthy hamlet, prove themselves more cunning than he could have imagined, Hokes becomes increasingly ignorant of what he’s meant to observe and desperate to finish his illiterate book. What we’re ultimately left with is not an easy attack on down-and-out nobodies (though it is also savagely, gloriously that), but a gut-punch for the industry of immersive, field-reported nonfiction. What indeed gives a writer the arrogance, you wonder, to claim an understanding of a place to which he remains, essentially, a tourist?
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