Magazine article World Literature Today

Editor's Pick

Magazine article World Literature Today

Editor's Pick

Article excerpt


18% Gray

Zachary Karabashliev

Angela Rodel, tr.

Open Letter Books, 2013

I believe that the longer I keep

the shutter open the more life

gets captured on the negative.

Bulgarian-born novelist and playwright Zachary Karabashliev entertains and surprises in his debut novel, 18% Gray, with a protagonist of his own namesake-Zack-whose heedless personality is comically blunt, often boorish, and yet passionate all in a matter of moments. Encountered through the unabashed thoughts of our narrator, the story follows Zack coping with the sudden disappearance of his wife, Stella, in a quest that turns him loose on a journey across the United States with an unpredictably acquired stash of marijuana and a vintage Nikon camera.

Karabashliev's talent in creating a complex and darkly entertaining protagonist makes it an enticing story to follow. The novel paces smoothly with brief flashbacks to Zack and his wife's budding relationship, which ignited in Bulgaria, to create an interesting procession. He creates a thirst for answers behind Zack and Stella's relationship and individuality while also amplifying a curiosity for what will happen when the brazen, wily narrator ultimately makes it to his final destination, New York City.

Striking a familiar chord with Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the protagonist travels on an experiential journey across the U.S. via the often beatnik-associated Route 66. The story gains a uniquely purposeful momentum for Zack when he begins photographing America along his journey. …

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