THE HOUSE OF JOURNALISTS: A Novel. By Tim Finch. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 294 pages. $26.
This story rattles you to your core, and does it almost playfully.
“The House of Journalists” is a sanctuary for political refugees who can make some pretense of having practiced journalism.
But that doesn’t begin to describe the angst of its residents, volunteers, donors, eavesdroppers, manipulators and back-biting managers who champion freedom while keeping a paranoid watch that resembles a little too eerily the oppressions the residents fled.
The residents take turns narrating, telling about the terrors they left and the alienation they have found, and each tale says as much as about the other characters as the one speaking. Sometimes they speak together as a sort of Greek chorus.
In the middle of it all is AA, a cipher of a character who might or might not be a legitimate refugee, who might or might not be abetting a political power broker in taking down the house, who might or might not be a specter. And who doesn’t talk.
“But you, AA, have not joined us, we notice. Though we notice Julian seems relaxed about your absence.”
This is brutally dark satire you tumble into snickering and stagger away from bruised.
“You must wear this pass around your neck at all times. Around your neck, at all times, for security reasons, you are to wear this identity. AA-writer. Whatever you have been through and wherever are going, it is something, is it not, to be recognized officially in this way?”
Finch tears contemporary mores to shreds writing about people whose lives are in pieces. You keep groping for a resolution, something that will bandage it up nicely and ... ah, no ... that would be telling.
Just know that even the somewhat gimmicky ending stays adeptly in character.
“The House of Journalists” is so human, full of allusions and disturbing that it’s hard to accept it is the first fiction by Finch, a political journalist. This tale is great shakes.
Reviewer Bo Petersen is a reporter for The Post and Courier.