Jack O'Connell's The Resurrectionist is one of the most original American novels of the year. A quest by a father to save his son, a tale of mad scientists and dream-logic, the story of a band of "freaks" on their own strange journey, and the chronicle of an odd coma clinic, the book defies easy classification. As I wrote in my recent Washington Post Book World review, "I've read The Resurrectionist twice now, and both times it came as something of a revelation. It seems odd we should care so much about the freaks, for example, when we know they're merely characters in a boy's comic book. Nor should the dream-life of a coma patient be so resonant, and yet it is."
The Resurrectionist has been reviewed by the LA Times, BookPage, The San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. The New York Times Book Review wrote of the book, "“To call Jack O’Connell’s novels imaginative, or even original, doesn’t begin to say it...There’s something both exciting and unnerving about [his] kind of hallucinatory writing.” Ron Hogan at Galleycat also posted a very nice feature. A website for The Resurrectionist exists at Enter Limbo.
The novel comes nine years after O'Connell's last, in part for reasons revealed in the interview below and in part because his previous novel, Word Made Flesh, "was an extremely dark book. By the time it was published, I had two young kids. And I didn’t want to go back in the darkness for a while. So I spent a couple of years writing a satirical road novel. It’s a book I still like but my agent convinced me that it was not what readers expected or wanted from me. And that it might diminish whatever small readership I’d built up over these last 15 years. So I put it in a drawer and launched Sweeney’s story. Which was soon invaded by a troupe of wandering circus freaks." Other novels by O'Connell include the cult classic Box Nine, The Skin Palace, and Wireless, all set in his iconic, uniquely American creation, the rustbelt city of Quinsigamond.
As a long-time fan of O'Connell's unique surreal noir approach to fiction, I was thrilled to have a chance to interview him. When I asked where he was while answering my emailed questions, he replied, "I’m in the lab. The sepulcher. The dreaming vault at the top of the house. Hermetically sealed and insulated with 40 years worth of collected pulp. It’s about 5 a.m. and I’m stupid with jet-lag..."
Amazon.com: Where did your city of Quinsigamond come from? How has it changed over the years?
Jack O'Connell: Quinsigamond is my home-city as refracted through a quarter century of fever dream. I’ve lived my whole life within about three square miles of central Massachusetts. That was not the intention. No kid ever fell so hard for the standard clichés of an imagined writing life. I haunted the corner Rexall store and memorized the bio-blurbs on the rear covers of the paperbacks. Was long convinced that I needed to travel the globe, drive dynamite trucks, pan for gold in the Yukon, and fight fascists in Spain in order to become a writer. Things didn’t work out that way. And so, to paraphrase Thoreau, I have traveled much in my old, rustbelt, native city.