RONTEL by Sam Pink

reviewed by Gabino Iglesias | Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Rontel by Sam Pink Lazy Fascist Press, 96 pages, trade paperback, $7.95

Whenever a new Sam Pink novel lands on my hands, I start coming up with excuses for the appointments I’ll either be late for or simply miss. Pink’s work is always original and entertaining, the kind of literature for which the clich├ęd and utterly unattractive term “unputdownable” was invented. Rontel, his latest release with Lazy Fascist Press, is no different, except for the fact that it turned me into the guy on the bus who seems to be laughing at some internal joke.

Rontel kicks off with our narrator staring at his girlfriend’s makeup flakes as they spiral into oblivion in the bathroom’s sink. He imagines himself as one of those flakes, thus starting the blitzkrieg of wildly entertaining and somewhat philosophical vignettes that season the rest of the narrative. A few pages after the spiral of flakes, the same narrator, a young man who lives with his brother and a cat, is telling the city of Chicago to suck his dick. Then we accompany him and his inner thoughts as he plays video games, visits some friends, interacts with homeless people, and gets a sandwich, among other things. This might seem like simple, straightforward, even boring storytelling. Wrong. Pink has a talent for making every small detail, conversation, thought, and daydream a truly hilarious experience.

Books have a tendency to please one area of my personality. In the case of Rontel, something strange happened: two sides of me were simultaneously and equally amused. On one hand, the jagged man who’s too damn old for his age enjoyed the mirthful look at social interactions and the very strange homage Pink created for the city of Chicago. On the other, the 15-year-old kid inside me kept laughing as the narrator dreamed about giving everyone “the business,” imagined his cat, Rontel, as a cyborg, started a random text exchange with someone who had the wrong number, and unknowingly deconstructed a stereotypical conversation with his girlfriend. Anyone doubting Pink’s talent should read this for one reason: he can turn ordering a sandwich or going to a beekeeping class into interesting, humorous reading.

Uniqueness is hard to come by, and Sam Pink is one of those undeniable voices clearly doing his own thing — and is very successful at it. His writing here is deep without trying too hard, and brutally honest while still retaining the fun that comes from good fiction. This is existential comedy sprinkled with side-splitting flights of fancy and wrapped with the random weirdness and plethora of accents that make up Chicago. I’ve never been disappointed by any of the author’s previous books, but Rontel‘s combination of funny, real, raw, honest, and engaging makes it Pink’s best work to date.