Volume two strews a lot of carnage ...The score-settling is sometimes personal — although, with Kramer, everything is personal ... Lemish, like Kramer, is a diva, always ready to pull the bung from his emotions. He devours his enemies so ravenously that, when he speaks, their tails are still hanging from his mouth ... A river of blood courses through Kramer’s epic. That blood is bought and sold and swapped and spilled. If both volumes of The American People were the only books left behind by our species, an alien people who discovered them would, at the very least, really know that we had been here ... This novel, like its predecessor, is overstuffed, packed with incident and narrators and digressions within digressions. Unlike an iceberg, it hides nothing under the surface. It’s a mess, a folly covered in mirrored tiles, but somehow it’s a beautiful and humane one. It’s the journal of a plague century. I can’t say I liked it. Yet, on a certain level, I loved it.
Like volume one, The Brutality of Fact veers among melodrama, tragedy, and farce. Kramer mixes fictional transcripts, playlets, lists, and monologues. There’s no real plot, at least in the conventional sense, just the relentless torrent of history in which those in power suppress or kill gay men ... The novel’s effect is that of an open mic night in a subterranean bar where everyone has an ax to grind ... All the crosstalk conjures a bricolage that’s manic and overstuffed but also hypnotic. While Kramer’s moral ancestor is Defoe, his stylistic contemporaries are Thomas Pynchon, William T. Vollmann, and James Ellroy, novelists who take similarly gonzo liberties with historical fact. The difference is that for Kramer, queerness is the essential condition of American history and the American character, rather than race, class, or religion. The persecution and suffering he experienced as a gay man lend gristle to the novel, as well as an afterglow of rage, the megawatt fury that once got him labeled the angriest gay man in the world. He is self-aware enough to mock his single-mindedness ... Kramer is content to steamroll through history with little consideration for how queerness intersects with race, gender, economics, or any other totalizing force ... Whatever its grotesquerie, its inelegance, its repetitiveness, The American People also takes your breath away. There are few novels like it in our literature—not only in terms of scope but also in its crazed stagger between pathos and camp, realism and absurdism, plain lyricism and obscenity.
Kramer’s sprawling, intermittently brilliant conclusion of his massive two-volume alternate history...imagines battles within the government over drug testing that leads to an AIDS-like epidemic ... This is a feast of relentless gibes and vitriol, shot through with savage humor and earnest passion. Kramer’s righteous rage makes for irresistible, provocative reading.