The Novelist follows a young man over the course of a single morning as he fails to write an autobiographical novel about his heroin addiction and recovery, finding himself drawn into the infinite spaces of Twitter, quotidian rituals, and his own mind.
Compact, brilliant, and very funny ... Determinedly accurate and not a little uncanny ... If all of this sounds a little grim, it is. Kind of ... But also it’s exuberant, light at all the right times, and very, very funny. Castro closely catalogs nearly every step of his narrator’s writing process ... The Novelist pays explicit homage to its major influences ... The Novelist finds its comedy in the new self-hobbling patterns spawned by social media. Which are not exceptional for Castro, or for his novelist. Perhaps this is why the novel is so affecting. We know its sting. We are complicit. Technology is taking our attention, too.
... excels in ways other than this conceptual premise; the novel features exquisite moments that blend vivid description with abject, ridiculous situations. Nobody writes ass-wiping like Jordan Castro ... Castro’s shit immerses readers in the visceral experience of the present. He extends this thorough description to other moments, as his prose reveals the intricacies of shame and abjection in everyday life, where the protagonist scrolls through Instagram feeds of vague acquaintances, reflects on past mistakes, and fails to write his novel ... There is a compelling formal unity to the book, as it shows how fictional works always partake of multiple genres simultaneously; a character thinks they’re living in a comedy, only to find tragedy on every page ... Jordan Castro writes well. Across his debut novel, he demonstrates technical skill, able to mingle genres and details into compelling and pleasurable prose. In the process, he reveals that — even if his protagonist doesn’t know it — there is so much more to a novel than autofictional backflips or life that you can get wrong.
... an engaging reflection on the anxieties of writing autofiction, and of the genre as it exists today. This is where The Novelist shines—not only in its exploration of the conventions of the genre, but in his experimentation with it as well. This novel, if at times tedious in its granular approach, breathes air into a tired form ... very little of The Novelist is devoted to the nitty gritty details of the narrator’s substance abuse. This is an inspired choice; it’s a feat to write a novel about addiction without including the particulars. These off-camera details of the narrator’s addiction become both the elephant in the room, and something else altogether—everything about him is in some way informed by his addiction. In refusing to write a drug novel, he is nonetheless doing just that ... By bringing attention to all that may be lobbed his way, those critiques are blunted in the process—if Castro has already acknowledged any controversial threads here, what is left to do? This seems to be a trend in fiction where any controversies are explained away within the text. This is made doubly so with autofiction, where separating the author from the narrator can already be a difficult task. Despite this, Castro continues to lean into the knottedness of autofiction at his own whim ... Ultimately, Castro surrenders to the greater pressures at play in the genre, and welcomes the collapse between the various competing forces in the novel. Between the fictitious Jordan Castro and the narrator and the author, between fiction and real life and all that comes in between. In rejecting autofiction, The Novelist ultimately welcomes it.