In my own writing, I often explore the minds of young, disenfranchised, mostly white males. This is my way of trying to imagine what causes some of them to perform acts of violence such as mass shootings and date rape. Two novels I’ve read recently—The Topeka School by Ben Lerner and Bloomland by John Englehardt —shed light on the origins of such aberrative behavior.
Bloomland is told in second person and involves three main characters. Eli is the epitome of the type of person I want to understand and commits a horrific crime. Casey, a young college student who has already survived tragedy, is a witness to Eli’s crime. Eddie is a writing instructor whose wife is a victim of the crime. We get a good look at the reverberations of such an event on perpetrator and survivors. This is Englehardt’s first novel, and it is a bold and very successful work of fiction. Bloomland won the 2018 Dzanc Prize for Fiction. (Dzanc is an indie press with a magnificent eye for good literature.)— Mamie
September 2019 Indie Next List
“Englehardt’s stunning debut is not for the faint of heart; within the first few pages, a shooting occurs in the library of a fictional southern college. But the story is less about this horrific event than it is about the period leading up to it, and what happens to three different people — a student, a professor, and the shooter himself — in the aftermath. In prose that is vivid, specific, and wildly original, Englehardt shows how grief, disillusionment, and, in some cases, resilience take his characters’ lives in surprising directions. This is SO good.”
— Erika VanDam, RoscoeBooks, Chicago, IL
Winner of the Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction
Winner of the VCU Cabell First Novel Award
A Kirkus Best Books of 2019 pick
An Indies Introduce pick
A September Indie Next pick
"Hugely important, hauntingly brutal--Englehardt has just announced himself as one of America's most talented emerging writers." --Kirkus starred review Bloomland opens during finals week at a fictional southern university, when a student walks into the library with his roommate's semi-automatic rifle and opens fire. When he stops shooting, twelve people are dead. In this richly textured debut, John Englehardt explores how the origin and aftermath of the shooting impacts the lives of three characters: a disillusioned student, a grieving professor, and a young man whose valuation of fear and disconnection funnels him into the role of the aggressor. As the community wrestles with the fallout, Bloomland interrogates social and cultural dysfunction in a nation where mass violence has become all too familiar. Profound and deeply nuanced, Bloomland is a dazzling debut for fans of Denis Johnson and We Need to Talk About Kevin.