In a very different and yet also political vein is Nick Mamatas’ Under My Roof. (The title carries a lovely double meaning considering our current government’s attitude whenever it is criticized.) Coming in at about 40,000 words, this short and simple comedy suffers from unfair comparison to Ms. Duchamp’s ambitious and dramatic series.
Herbert Weinberg, a telepath, and his father build a nuclear weapon (supposedly it’s possible to legally purchase fissionable material) on their front lawn and declare independence from the United States. The military surrounds the house, the neighbors respond with facile slogans-“‘Don’t you badmouth America, Daniel. We have men fighting overseas for your freedoms!’ Nick said, his anger rising. ‘You know I noticed you didn’t fly the flag on the Fourth this year.'”-Herbert’s mother has a religious conversion, and all sorts of various characters (the back cover calls them ‘refuseniks’) inhabit the house in search of… well, often they don’t really know what they want.
Mr. Mamatas dissects American culture with a sharp wit, from the supposed Muslim-equals-terrorist mindset to our mass-produced-lowest-price-lowest-quality consumables sold in enormous one-stop stores.
And here I have a problem. It isn’t that the novel isn’t funny or accurate, but that I felt as if it didn’t have anything new to say. Yes, of course many Americans equate flags and guns with genuine patriotism; and yes of course our society is filled with empty consumers; but are there many readers of Mamatas who wouldn’t agree?
On the flip side of the coin, Zoe Trope’s back cover blurb calls Under My Roof a young adult novel, and if that’s true, then hats off to Mr. Mamatas. For jaded adults (the choir he could be preaching to), the book covers familiar ground; but this is an excellent book with the excellent characteristics of short and funny, perfect for the kids growing up on sound bites, x-Box and Jon Stewart. It’s something I would’ve loved when I was Herbert’s age.