Book Review: The Red-Headed Pilgrim
Reviewed by Joe Walters
What did I just read?
The Red-Headed Pilgrim is escapist fiction. You can’t convince me otherwise. It’s not a fantasy, a sci-fi, any other mystical land to travel to (unless you count Portland). It’s just a break from this wild real life, a visit to a funny world, an entrance into someone else’s reality.
And that someone else?
They are a college dropout whose primary goal is rooted in Ginsberg’s Howl, in “burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.”
The guy wants to be a writer. He reads and lives by the seat of his pants, always willing himself to make choices that make himself happy in the moment. A lot of the time that happiness seems like it’s reliant on having sex for the first time.
This young protagonist (Kevin Maloney) is written by an author (Kevin Maloney) who is willing to laugh at his 20-something character as they venture through pretension toward real life consequences.
I didn’t know you were allowed to be funny for an entire page. I thought there were rules against this kind of thing. Like, don’t overwhelm the reader. Don’t do too much. You’re going to get annoying. But I guess Maloney doesn’t believe those things or no one ever told him because there are pages in here where every.single.sentence is funny.
And god does it feel good to laugh. I live in a world that’s burning and not in the ancient heavenly connection way, and I’m reminded of it each time I go to Twitter or see the news or talk to a person that’s connected to the world, but when I’m reading The Red-Headed Pilgrim, I can enjoy the moments on earth in about as easy of a way as I could hope for.
While the humor is seeping through these easy-reading pages, it’s also telling the story of a guy who makes decisions based on their own fumblings of how the world works. This is coming of age fiction where the character might not come of age.
A little about me: I’m a writer who can look back on his early-20s fondly, with a cringe. I loved the beatniks, the classics, the sentences that would take me closer to writing the great American novel. Maloney (the author) sets this similar tone for the duration of the book, allowing us to laugh at the seriousness with which we took (and take) ourselves and open ourselves up to a bit of laughter from time to time.
Now, not all of these mistakes are harmless though. Early adults also make adult decisions, and sometimes (especially when you’re a know-nothing-know-it-all), those decisions can alter the path of your life and others’ lives and not always for the better.
If you haven’t put it together by now, he has a baby. He becomes a father. He has to keep a job, to “work every second of [his] life in exchange for an expensive box to sleep in.”
And look, it is not lost on me that I am the exact audience for this type of thing: I too just had a baby; I too work so I can buy and fund an expensive box to sleep in; I too am lost in what capitalism has to offer; I too moved on a whim to and from New England and Portland, Oregon; I too am “burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night;” but I also know that I live in a world where the best decisions and actions I can come up with are those that I’m currently doing to help me and my loved ones survive.
It’s real, this venturing through a life.
Maloney (the character) goes through quite a lot by the end of this book, and maybe it becomes hard to breathe as an adult, harder to cope. Maybe it becomes harder to do most things, but he’s alive. So maybe there’s hope for him (and me) yet.
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio
Genre: Literary & General Fiction / Humor
Print Length: 242 pages
Thank you for reading Joe Walters’s book review of The Red-Headed Pilgrim by Kevin Maloney! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.