A review of

Before Elvis There Was Nothing

by Laurie Foos

Central question: Can a girl with a horn in the middle of her forehead get a break?
Format: 198 pp., softcover; Price: $14; Size: 5.5" x 8.5"; Publisher: Coffee House Press; Print run: 4,000; Editors: Allan Kornblum and Chris Fischbach; Designer: Linda Koutsky; Typeface(s) used: Caslon, Gill Sans, and Protégé; Author’s major literary influences: Kafka and Ionesco; Number of times author has visited Graceland: Three; Representative paragraph: “You discover things about yourself once you develop a horn. You may find you like oatmeal after all, or that you judge people by the curve of their natural hairline. You may realize why your sister’s husband left her, or why leaving the house could be so frightening.”

Oy, is this a weird book! Here are a few of the key elements: Elvis, runaway parents, agoraphobia, toe fungus, Bagel King, hair replacement therapy, a randy podiatrist, a big-hearted mailman, a crazy doctor, Cousin It, and a woman named Cass (after Mama Cass) who grows a six inch horn in the middle of her forehead. And did I mention she wants to be Jewish? Cass, lest she choke to death like her namesake! What kind of mishigass is this?

Turns out, the author, Laurie Foos, has a theory or two about how to write a novel. One theory goes like this: Make something weird enough and folks will look right past all of the weirdness to find the heart of the story. The second theory? Make something weird enough, and folks will stick with you to see how you’re going to pull the damn thing off. And pull it off, she does. I think. I’m still a little bit woozy from this tale’s wild and often very funny ride.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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

—Mary Guterson

Mary Guterson’s novel, We Are All Fine Here, was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in January, 2005.

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