In a rollicking black comedy about terrorism, war, and conjugal strife, the author whom "Salon" calls "a writer of chameleonic fluency" revisits some peculiar episodes in current American history.
Joyce and Marshall Harriman are struggling to divorce each other while sharing a cramped, hateful Brooklyn apartment with their two small children. One late-summer morning, Joyce departs for Newark Airport to catch a flight to San Francisco, and Marshall goes to his office in the World Trade Center. She misses her flight, and he's late for work, but on that grim day, in a devastated city, among millions seized by fear and grief, each thinks the other's dead and each is secretly, shamefully, gloriously happy.
Opening with a swift kick to our national piety, "A Disorder Peculiar to the Country" follows Joyce and Marshall as they swallow their mutual disappointment, their divorce conflict intensifies, and they suffer, in unexpectedly personal ways, the many strange ravages that beset America in the first years of the Bush administration. Joyce suspects Marshall has sent an anthrax-laced envelope to her office. Marshall taps her phone and studies plans for constructing a suicide bomb. The stock market crash and the war in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib and the clash of civilizations: all become marital battlefields. Concluding with the liberation of Iraq, "A Disorder Peculiar to the Country" astonishingly lampoons how our nation's public calamities have encroached upon our most intimate private terrors. It firmly establishes Ken Kalfus as one of the most daring and inventive writers at work today.