One Enchanted Evening

J. Robert Lennon

  • The Great Night by Chris Adrian
    Granta, 292 pp, £16.99, June 2011, ISBN 978 1 84708 186 5

A doctor and former seminarian, Chris Adrian has over the past decade written three sprawling novels of unusual thematic scope and one collection of highly inventive short stories. His first novel, Gob’s Grief, was more varied in style and intent than some entire careers. Though it presents itself as an American Civil War picaresque (the opening line is: ‘Thomas Jefferson Woodhull was 11 years old when he ran away from home to join the Union army’), it gradually turns into a sort of steampunk horror story, featuring the reanimation of corpses and characters with names like The Urfeist and Colonel Blood. Its intertwined – or perhaps simply scattered – motifs draw on American political and literary history as well as science and psychology. The point of view shifts unexpectedly and frequently, and the broad cast of characters includes, among many invented figures, reimagined versions of both Whitman and Lincoln.

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