From one of our most admired and visible young writers, a superb new novel about the collision between the forces of faith and an overstimulated, overfed, spiritually overextended America.Mason LaVerle is a young man on a mission-a mission to America. He was raised in a remote Montana town in the church of the Aboriginal Fulfilled Apostles, a matriarchal, not-quite-Christian, almost New-Ageish sect that, like the Amish, keeps a wary distance from mainstream life. But the Apostles face a dwindling membership, so Mason is sent on an outreach mission with another young man to bring back converts-and, more specifically, brides. And so these two naive believers head off in a van to encounter the contemporary scene in all its bewildering, seductive diversity. They prosyletize at malls, passing out leaflets in parking garages based on the condition of their cars and their bumper stickers. Eventually, they make their way to a gilded Colorado ski town, where, while promoting their un-American message of humble, serene, optimistic fatalism, Mason finds himself courting a young woman who used to pose for Internet porn sites, and his partner becomes the live-in guru of a guilt-ridden billionaire with chronic bowel complaints.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Various co-existing Americas get a bitter, resonant jibing from Kirn (Thumbsucker) in his latest fiction of decadent culture on the skids. Founded in the 19th century, the Aboriginal Fulfilled Apostles are a doctrinal smorgasbord of health food enthusiasm, Swedenborgism, matriarchy and semicommunal living. Isolated in Bluff, Mont., the group is dying out, so its only prosperous member, Ennis Lauer, finances some missionary work to Terrestria--aka the on-the-grid U.S. Narrator Mason Plato LaVerle is plucked from his ongoing courtship of young Sarah to trawl for converts with the (as it turns out) tragically temptable Elder Stark. As he and Elder drive through Wyoming, Elder is introduced to crank by a decrepit dealer, and Mason is introduced to sex by a 15-year-old Wiccan. In the Aspen-like Snowshoe, Colo., the two fall into the circle around Errol Effingham Sr., a billionaire constructed mainly of bogus takes on Ayn Rand and a bad stomach, while Mason falls for the lovely Becky, whose former incarnation can still be viewed with a triple-X mouse click. Mason's flat voice, which levels everything to a certain calm, makes overconsumption and dissipation seem funny again. This may be the Livingston, Mont.-based Kirn's best work yet. Agent, Cynthia Cannell. (On sale Oct.11) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 09, 2005
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Excerpt from Mission to America by Walter Kirn
Partly we did it out of pity. We felt sorry for people who didn't know what we knew. By reading their newspapers in our village library and questioning the occasional lost hiker or adventurous dirt-road motorist, we realized as never before that life out there had become strident, disheartening and harsh while life back here, back home in Bluff, Montana, remained harmonious and sweet. But we also had selfish reasons for what we did. Over the years we'd come to understand that there was something we needed from the outsiders, without which our charmed little world might not survive. We needed new blood. We needed wives and mothers. We needed a few brown eyes among our offspring, more dark curly hair, and less inherited color blindness. We needed to stir our lumpy hard old stock until it was soft enough to pour again. And so, for the first time since we came together one hundred and forty-seven-years earlier, and in violation of our traditions of silence, modesty, and isolation, we gathered a party to go down out of the hills and mount, at long last, a mission to America.
The strange disturbed place needed help, and so did we.
Our wisdom for their vigor. We hoped to trade.
We were the Aboriginal Fulfilled Apostles and I am Mason Plato LaVerle. I won't start by recounting all of our history; it will trickle out. We approved, that's the main thing. We approved abundantly. We approved of the Prince of Flocks, whom others call Christ, and of our God of Gods, the-All-in-One, but we also approved of a host of other divinities, majestic and humble, familiar and obscure, from tricky Old Coyote, the Hopi spirit, to dainty Lady Vegetalis, a garden sylph of cloudy origins. We approved of diverse ideas and teachings as well, embracing the Golden Rule, Ten Commandments, the Hindu law of Karma, and our very own Perpetuity of Essence, which was easy to state but hard to comprehend. In the words of the Seeress, our aging leader, who spoke every week for three hours from her sunporch, propped in a wheelchair between two folded sheepskins and waving a quartz-tipped cedar cane for emphasis, Death does not end us, Birth does not begin us, and Life does not corrupt us. We stream on forever through the Etheric Flux, indestructible channels of vitality.