Bitter Orange – Marshall Moore (Signal 8 Press)

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Buy it now from Amazon.com

The poor human animal. Buffeted by technological advances
and fishbowled by social networking, his response in many cases is to disappear
into anonymity—surfing secretly behind IP scramblers and stalking friends and
enemies alike online. Taking that a step further, what might it be like to
actually be invisible? Seth Harrington finds out in Marshall Moore’s sardonic Bitter
Orange
.

Seth is a moderately wealthy San Franciscan living with his
Korean roommate Sang-hee, wandering aimlessly through life with the aid of his
friend Elizabeth, a tattoo artist. Only she really isn’t his friend. Harrington
discovers his powers of invisibility quite by accident but rather than be
elated by his newfound abilities, they instead cause him even further distress
and confusion.

One of Moore’s greatest gifts is his ability to isolate and
illuminate societal anomie. He finds the very heart of our disconnectedness,
distills it into a character like Seth Harrington, and puts him through the
paces of life (not plot, though there is some of that here). The result is both
intriguing and reflective, and you might find yourself putting it down, as I
did, just long enough to digest an experience before picking it back up with
either recognition or denial of your own response.

If this sounds boring or too deep for enjoyment, it doesn’t
take into account Moore’s second biggest asset—his enormously smart-assed sense
of humor. This manifests itself in chuckling asides as well as broader slapstick.
All are on Moore’s pallete, and he paints Bitter Orange in wide swaths
of funny.

But Moore is almost always at his funniest when he’s being
mean—his characterization of the Asian woman who runs the convenience store
Seth discovers his powers in (by stealing a bottle of wine) is so devestatingly
real that you know this is someone who’s pissed Moore off in real life. His
other characterizations are equally adroit. Seth comes off the page quite well,
as does his roommate Sang-hee.

But really, this is a novel populated by characters in a
plot which really can’t be encapsulated in a review. But keep reading until the
end. The last thirty pages are marvelous and revelatory. If you’ve liked
Moore’s other work, you’ll find this to be all of a piece with it.

And if you’ve never read him before, this is a most
excellent place to start.

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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