Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
I had a lot of fun reading Kirsten Mortensen’s comic novel “Can Job.” It’s about a prominent can opener company from the city of Borschtchester, New York, which is hoping to expand into the digital sphere. Get outta their way, ’cause they’re laying the foundation for the high-tech kitchen of tomorrow! But there are a few problems — big ones. For one thing, their proprietary can dimpling system looks like it might not catch on. For another, they probably won’t have a prototype ready for the kitchen industry’s big show. And what to do about the pigeons that keep roosting outside of Boss Scally’s window — aside from calling them rock doves, I mean?
Mortensen has a knack for revealing people as creatures of self-interest, and for showing how their silly, selfish drives can manifest on multiple levels — personal, civic, corporate, sexual. This is the sort of book in which a local politico’s problems renovating his bathroom end up influencing his decision to reroute a public construction project, in which a kid’s idle scribbles come to seem like they’ll determine the entire future of can opening.
Mortensen might be called a satirical humanist: her characters seem lovable even as she’s revealing the worst in them. And why not? We’re all united in our buffoonery, after all. But these characters are never simply dolts. They’re fully formed and believable, seemingly drawn from shrewd observation and then given the slightest of nudges in order to tilt them a bit towards caricature. At times these lovable grotesques reminded me of characters out of Preston Sturges. High praise, coming from me.
The writing is clean, curt, no-nonsense. And it’s very funny. I probably chuckled to myself every few minutes. The plot is twisty enough to keep you turning the pages but not so complex as to be confusing. And when a thread or two is left dangling, it feels less like a mistake than a decision — an effort to maintain the impression of small-city shagginess. Because although there’s a lot of sharp satire in “Can Job,” there’s also a lot of sympathetic, “I’ve been there”-style observation. This Borschtchester is a pixilated community in miniature.
Anyway, give it a try if you’ve got some time. It’s available for the Kindle at:
Here’s a cute little advertisement for the book:
Kirsten is a good friend of this blog. Paleo Retiree reviewed one of her other books back here.