“All Her Father’s Guns” tells the story of two men, a businessman and an academic, who are delusional in different ways. Cal is a gun-loving businessman trying to upend his ex-wife Tabytha’s congressional campaign. Reid is a doctoral student who is dating Cal’s daughter Lyllyan, while trying to find actual employment when the Department of Theory is downsized. When Cal asks Reid to try to dig up some dirt on Tabytha, he discovers more than he bargained for…
Both Cal and Reid are complex characters, and seemed incredibly human despite the fact that they are obvious parodies. As caricatures they are able to reveal deeper truths through the exaggerated nature of their characters. Cal may be a bit extreme and naive in his beliefs that guns solve all problems, but compared to his ex (and most current Republican candidates), he is incredibly sane. At first, I didn’t care for him, largely because he doesn’t really seem to live in the real world or understand real people, but as the novel progressed I warmed up to him a lot and began to pity him. I identified a lot more with Reid when he was introduced, but he began to make a lot of really dumb relationship decisions because he’s a lot better with books than he is with people. His relationship with Lyllyan is dysfunctional at best, but at the same time I found myself hoping that she’d stay with him, because he was a decent person who was just incredibly clueless when it came to interacting with people. He was just as naive as Cal, but in an entirely different way, which was one of the points that the book was trying to make–to avoid viewing people simply as clueless or smart, but to look deeper and realize that everyone has his own idiosyncrasies.
I loved reading the interaction between members of the Department of Theory (although I’m sure that I’ve spent far too long in academia, judging by the fact that I understood what they were talking about, especially when Althusser was mentioned early in the novel) and about Viorela, the Lacanian shrink.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I found it to be well-written and amusing. At the same time, I think that where I live probably has a lot to do with why I liked it. Despite the fact that this book is set on the West coast, the politics reminded me a lot of the people that one encounters while living in the DC area.