A few days ago, I had the pleasure of spending several hours with Kirk Farber‘s debut novel, Postcards from a Dead Girl. It’s the story of Sid Higgins–quirky and awkward and funny and sad and witty and slightly off-kilter Sid Higgins–who starts getting, well, postcards from Zoe, his dead (?) girlfriend. [There’s a question mark there, because as the story moves forward, there are several arguments (most in Sid’s head) about the dubiousness of Zoe’s death. Sometimes, she’s just lost. Sometimes, she’d just walked away.] Add to the mix a loving yet bossy sister, a slew of post office workers, Sid’s mother haunting a bottle of 1967 Bordeux, and the incredibly patient dog Zero (who, at times, seems to be the only one who bears with our pal Sid’s eccentricities). Oh, and Sid is a telemarketer for a travel agency (and I don’t get a lot of telemarketers, so that’s not a mark against him heh), and his boss is just nuts. All that together makes this debut novel a wonderful book, it really really really is.
Sid’s story spans over seventy very short chapters, and I think these bite-sized servings are perfect for Sid’s voice. They aren’t pretentious-short (because, trust me, the world abounds with those), and they aren’t too abrupt. Instead, they’re episodic, or like scenes from a movie. (Think Woody Allen at his most contemporary hip, with some echoes of 500 Days of Summer.) There’s an indie-film-ish quality to the book—dark humor, some absurdity—some parts shot with a hazy backlight, some with grainy film. Look at the scenes: Sid in a conversation with his dog Zero; Sid talks to his dead mother (who is in that aforementioned bottle of Bordeaux); Sid rides his car through a car wash; Sid dips himself in a mudholebath he made in his backyard; Sid looks at the interior of a CAT scan and feels cozy (and later, telling Zero that it wasn’t “that kind of cat”). All the while, thinking about his Zoe (and her scent, Blue Zoe Bliss), those postcards.
This was about Sid, and how he’s trying (and fumbling) to restore his life after many tragedies. There’s such a deep sensitivity to Sid’s observations, as well as quirkiness—his sister’s phone number is in the shape of half a house when dialed, road dividers go dashdashdash in your peripheral vision when you drive by (this might seem obvious to ye—but Sid makes it sounds so lyrical, so heartbreaking). And I was giggling. Sid Higgins made me giggle. Right before he socked me between the eyes with a well-uttered observation.
It was all so quirky and so spot-on, and I loved how it all came together to build up not only the story, but Sid as a person, as a character, a voice. And that’s what I loved most about this book–Sid’s voice. I keep going on and on about it, and it’s really what ties this book together, makes the novel such a treat. Sid’s is an inner dialogue that draws you in and compels you to read. He makes you laugh, he makes you go What now?, he makes you smile that odd smile one gets when torn between grinning very broadly and crying just a bit.
These are odd times that Sid chronicles, and I’m glad I’m with him for the ride–because, really, we need voices in our head to tell us that as absurd as things tend to seem, as heartbreaking as they actually are, there’s always something out there that will make us breathless, make us realize that the world doesn’t have to be a terrible place. Take Sid’s cue: you can self-deprecatingly snigger about it, and then descend into that mudholebath.
I wish Sid Higgins well. I also vote Zero for Best Fictional Dog Evahr, and Gerald the Post Office Guy for Best Underground Lair Owner.
Postcards from a Dead Girl is an incredibly beautiful book, and many thanks to the Universe for flinging it in my direction, and, of course, to Kirk Farber for writing it. I am at the edge of my seat, waiting for your second book.