A review of

How the Dead Dream

by Lydia Millet

Central question: What does it feel like to be truly safe?
Format: 256 pp., cloth; Size: 5 ½" x 8 ¼"; Price: $24.00; Publisher: Counterpoint; Editor: Richard Nash; Print run: 8,000; Book design: Anne Horowitz; Cover design: David Janik; Typefaces: Electra; One of many animals that went extinct while author was writing book: West African black rhinoceros; Job author held before publication of first novel: Copy editor at Hustler; Representative passage: “Fear they knew. And if they knew fear why not the inverse too, the glowing comfort of safety, the warmth and closeness of other fish; and why not loneliness too, even if it moved through them like one more ripple of light.”

The story of Thomas is the story of a man with an inborn facility for all things economic. Called T. by his family, friends, and a close third-person narrator, he grows from a child with a fetish for American currency—secreting money in his mattress and on his person—to a successful real estate developer. And yet—against all expectations—he is not a villain. He remains sympathetic, in an Alex P. Keaton (from Family Ties) sort of way. His early childhood schemes for the accumulation of capital, as amoral as they are, tend to be comic and charming enough to keep us on his side. The villain of the story is institutional and biological—the institutions that lead to the expansion of the civilized world, and to the desire to procreate and expand the population.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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

—Matthew Simmons

Matthew Simmons is the Man Who Couldn’t Blog and the interviews editor at Hobart. He lives in Seattle.

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