It's early one morning on a hot day in August, and millennial congressman Alexander Paine Wilson (R), planning his first reelection campaign and in deep denial about his sexuality, receives a mysterious, over-sized FedEx delivery on his front stoop. Inside is a gigantic taxidermied aardvark.
In the tradition of the best existential farces, Enter the Aardvark keeps returning to the beginning of all things to ask: So how did we get here? ... like A.S. Byatt with a demented sense of humor, Anthony breaks the present action with dispatches about the finicky taxidermist who stuffed and sewed this very aardvark in Victorian-era London. The structure doesn’t so much intrigue as ensnare you, weaving its cat’s cradle of a plot as you lie there, strapped to a table. Dovetailing coincidences and epiphanies, profound and slapsticky, hilarious and depressing at once, Enter the Aardvark is brutally suited to our moment of absurd political theater ... Even with its wild oscillations...the book is too buttoned-up to feel surrealist ... Anthony’s energetic mind achieves...a straight tone with an absurdist philosophy ... character-driven, with a mean streak and a love of symmetry ... It’s a credit to Anthony’s authorial control that she can shift among characters who might, if they took the wheel, steer this story into their own genres ... Anthony opts instead for farce with a generous helping of sight-gags ... this novel falters, perhaps because the plot mechanics are propelled by a liberal fantasy. The book flirts with the hoary joke that all homophobic politicians must be gay. More fantastical is the premise that this white, pretty congressman would be deemed suspicious by authorities ... It’s a thrilling ride, even if disbelief remains unsuspended. I’d buy another ticket.
... a bombastic, stylized, brief (perhaps too brief) examination of the inner workings of a gay thirtysomething Republican ... propulsive and blunt ... Anthony manages to show us what makes Alexander tick, as well as hold up a funhouse mirror to our own political media in the age of spin ... bluntness effortlessly moves the narrative, even when we’re offered real insight into Alexander ... Throughout, Anthony uses her razor-sharp sense of wit to organically ground Alexander’s awfulness in prose, and wring out both irony and loathing for him ... The book’s greatest achievement may very well be its exacting dissection of Republican homosexuality in connection to avarice and the Republican Party’s ideals ... the ending, unfortunately, seems abrupt and ambiguous ... Still, even in its abruptness, there is something earned about the conclusion, as if there’s hope for Alexander to mature, even if he tries to cling to the artifice that made him such a political force in the first place.
Who would have guessed that a satire about an oily Republican congressman, 19th-century taxidermy and a creature so ugly it resembles 'a pig screwed by a donkey' would be the perfect tonic for testing times? This is what Jessica Anthony’s insouciant and ingenious novel delivers in fewer than 192 achingly funny pages ... As with any farce, it’s in the distance between a character’s self-conception and their reality that the comedy lies ... Anthony delights in destroying her Reagan-obsessive narrator on the page, while only occasionally allowing the comic situations to veer into the ludicrous or implausible ... Light on its feet, utilising second-person narration to great effect, Enter the Aardvark is reminiscent of Lionel Shriver’s recent sharply cynical novel, The Mandibles, while its trenchant satire echoes Tom Rachman’s much overlooked story collection, Basket of Deplorables, in which the shallow cruelties of Trump’s presidency are eviscerated. Ultimately, though, Anthony’s voice is all her own: deliciously astute, fresh and terminally funny.