A review of
by Julia Slavin
Carnivore Diet, the first novel by Julia Slavin, takes place in a world in which post-apocalyptic disasters coexist in bland equipoise with everyday banalities like barbecues and marital infidelity. The carnivore of the title is a monster called a “chagwa,” which settles in the backyard of a typically untypical family—the son, Dylan, is a washed-up child actor, the ex-congressman father is in prison, and the mother, Wendy, is a pill addict. The chagwa stalks Dylan, kills almost everyone in sight, and yet somehow stays ineffable and cute.
Though Carnivore Diet is chock full of slapstick—the characters keep hurrying around on fruitless errands; at one point, Dylan steals a pony, then returns it—there is almost no real plot. At no time do characters make choices under pressure and struggle to live on with the consequences, and the story doesn’t progress so much as gather up futilities. Wendy is failed by countless men: her husband, her doctor, her lover, and a swarthy, Clintonesque man of mystery named Ben Sotterberg, who seduces and dumps her. Medicine fails her, politics fail her, a stint in an asylum fails her, and, in a bit of insouciant political incorrectness, vegetarianism fails her. Many of her scenes take place in rooms with lavish buffets: Even luxury porn fails her. Failure is inscribed into this world where connections are impossible.
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