A review of

Jokerman 8

by Richard Emidio Melo

Central question: Can a small, happy group of un-caped crusaders save planet Earth?
Format: 280 pp., paperback; Print run: 3,000; Price: $15.95; Publisher: Soft Skull Press; Editor: Richard Eoin Nash; Book designer: David Janik; Text typeface: Granjon and Arrow; Former jobs held by author: Movie projectionist, teacher at court reporting school; Number of em-dashes in original manuscript: 2,477; Representative sentence: “We are Jokerman, an International Collective, hangers on of the Joshua Tree & we wish to remind you, when you tread, tread lightly & when you drink, save some for the fish.”

Anyone who writes a novel about environmental activists (a project I’ve tried myself) has to enlist the reader’s sympathy for people considered kooks, or terrorists, or dippy, tree-hugging hippies. As Richard Melo puts it in his novel about eco-saboteurs, JOKERMAN 8, “I myself have never heard a compelling logical explanation for the preservation of species. The species-decimation-leads-to-inevitable-apocalypse theories all ring hollow to me. The reasons we love & preserve species is spiritual & the spiritual defies tidy encapsulation in language. Do you know what I mean?”

Yes, I do. In the absence of compelling logical explanations, Melo goes to great lengths to make his band of merry eco-pranksters, a collective known as Jokerman 8, sympathetic. They are, in fact, the sweetest, most loving, most purely moral collection of characters on the planet. Born in the late sixties, they are heirs to all that’s best from that time: the belief in social change and the spirit of rock and roll. Guided by U2’s Joshua Tree album and haunted by the specter of Vietnam, the Jokerman 8 travel the world from their headquarters in Northern California. They sink whaling ships in Iceland, stop the slaughter of wolves in British Columbia, spike trees in old-growth forests in Oregon, and they never, ever hurt anybody.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Alix Ohlin

Alix Ohlin’s book, The Missing Person, will be published by Knopf in May 2005.

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