New book: Trophy: A Novel, by Michael Griffith ’87 (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press)
The author: A native of South Carolina and an associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, Griffith wrote the novel Spikes (2001) and the collection Bibliophilia: A Novella and Stories (2003). For 10 years he served as an editor of the literary quarterly The Southern Review, and in 2004 he became the founding editor of Yellow Shoe Fiction, an original-fiction series from LSU Press. Griffith also is fiction editor at The Cincinnati Review.
The plot: As the novel opens, Vada Prickett, a 29-year-old hose associate at a car wash in South Carolina, is being crushed to death by a stuffed grizzly bear that he is helping his lifelong neighbor, friend, and rival, Wyatt Yancey, move into Wyatt’s house — against the wishes of Darla, whom Prickett loves but who is about to marry Wyatt. As the cliché goes, Prickett’s life flashes before his eyes — and he tries to make his last moment last as long as possible as he attempts to unravel the mysteries of his life.
“Oh, but that’s showy … it’s more accurate to say that Vada is on the cusp of corpsedom. He is enjoying — or, rather, not enjoying: what kind of man would take pleasure in an end so early and grim and flat-out painful as this one, especially if it’s his own early, grim, and flat-out painful end? — his last instant of life. Dear God but that’s a mess. Think straight, Vada. Uncomplicate, unravel.
“What Vada is doing is dying.”
Review: A critic for Kirkus Reviews wrote: “The novel is a surrealistic meditation on, and a send-up of, the American dream, consumerism, God, the modern family, and assorted other human foibles. … Griffith’s word wizardry, his facile puns, his insight into the human heart and his topsy-turvy sardonic approach make for a one-of-a-kind reading experience. A quirky, imaginative, dazzling black comedy.”
Read more: PAW’s 2004 interview with Michael Griffith.