Michael Collins: Keepers of the Truth

The Keepers of Truth - Michael Collins

I have a soft spot for flawed main characters. Bill, an ex-academic, ex-moneyed small-town journalist who half-intentionally gets involved in the doomed lives of those central to the biggest news story the town has ever seen, is fascinating. His unhinged answering machine messages to his probably-ex girlfriend, his crazy sleep patterns and toaster-oven meals with whiskey, his inability to stifle his theorizing long enough to write a news article, his crazy powerful grandfather who was frozen at death and threatens to return one day to judge Bill's failures — I couldn't put him down. The details that Bill notices about the men who populate the town and the novel are precise and gritty, but his vision is sweeping and dark.

The novel is set in the 1980s, and finds itself in a part of the country that is in decline, and can no provide the kind of work that makes men strong and proud, like their fathers were. Some readers said they gave up on this book because they found it depressing, but I saw Bill's dark and fatalistic diatribes as a character trait, not statements of fact, even about the time that the novel was set. I took Bill's slightly off-balance opinions the same way I took Thompson's half-lucid rants in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: they ring bitingly true, but they are not, of course, the whole story, and they are not meant to represent the entire country.

I haven't read any other novels by Collins, but I will seek them out. I love his prose, and the plot, which picks up as Bill falls apart, was mesmerizing. Highly recommended.