A review of

The Restless Supermarket

by Ivan Vladislavić

CENTRAL QUESTION: How do you know when it’s time to let go?
Year of book’s publication: 2001; Some of author’s past professions: editor, proofreader; Number of non-white South Africans relocated under apartheid between 1960 and 1983: 3.5 million; Narrator on his desire to “fix” Johannesburg: “I wished that I could pass this entire city through the eye of the proofreader’s needle”; Narrator’s favorite way to wind down: playing against himself in a game of “lexical fartlek”; Author’s stated goal: “I wanted to try and make the reader like a character they shouldn’t.”; Representative passage: “Currywurst? It was ersatz, a jerry-built portmanteau if I ever heard one.”

Aubrey Tearle is a proofreader by profession but also in spirit. His life’s great love is orderliness, his passion predictability; a psychiatrist might diagnose him as obsessive-compulsive or maybe something on the autism spectrum, but the descriptor his acquaintances most often use is dry. He firmly believes that “routine is the foundation of happiness,” so he structures the days of his retirement as rigidly as those of a workweek, embarking on a quest—his sword a sharpened pencil, his shield the Pocket Oxford—to hunt down and correct all the errors in his hometown. These range from typos in newspapers, phone books, advertisements, and menus to inaccurately named businesses, like the eponymous twenty-four-hour Restless Supermarket: “‘Restless’ doesn’t mean that you never rest,” he explains to the uncomprehending store manager. “It means, and I quote, never still, fidgety.”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Mary Mann

Mary Mann is a Hoosier living in Manhattan. Her essays have appeared in Salon, the Hairpin, the Rumpus, the Toast, Bookslut, and Ploughshares online. Her other writing has appeared in Columbia Journal online and New York magazine online.

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