Dirty Red Kiss


A Salinger for the new generation, Dirty Red Kiss‘s Caulfield-esque narrator opens a window through which we can see humanity in a way that is beyond the capabilities of a more articulate, self-aware narrator.

Caulfield isn’t the only protagonist that Derek Henkel’s narrator reminds me of – he also bears a resemblance to Titus, of Feed, and Arel Ashe of Scorch.

What, you ask, could these four possibly have in common? Each book is set in a different moment in time, the protagonists are different ages and different genders. Feed and Scorch are both clear indictments of the consumerist west, while Catcher in the Rye and Dirty Red Kiss are both a bit more open ended. It seems as if there is nothing real or significant to tie these books and characters together.

I’m sure you’ll not be surprised to find that I believe there is something they share. I would even go so far as to class them all as examples of an archetype, albeit one that I am proposing right now, for the first time: “everyman with the potential to rise above.”

This is a fundamentally hopeful archetype, but one whose characters are usually tinged by sadness and uncertainty. They are normal, near average, and surrounded by friends and peers who are decidedly mainstream. Unlike their peers, they contain within them seeds of insight of creativity – seeds that we can only see because of our privileged position as readers. Perhaps, then, we are too rash to assume that they are alone among their peers? As much as our narrator may appear to be the only character with the potential to grow, it is mainly by their thoughts that we determine their potential.

It’s for this reason that the “everyman with the potential to rise above” is fundamentally hopeful. No matter how poorly the protagonist’s journey may go, their hidden seed of insight gives the reader hope that the most abject of us may yet go on to blossom.

So. Read it.

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