Spackler’s Hackles by E. Whittington Ashley ($22.95, Scribner)
Undeniably one of the blockbuster hits of the year, full of disparate yet wonderfully rendered characters like Cambodian refugees and the Hungarian Mafia, evangelicals and gay rehab counselors, not to mention evangelicals in gay rehab, cheesy boyfriends and drunk bookworms. Dmitri Spackler is a protagonist for the new millennium: a savvy mix of Leopold Bloom and Jay Gatsby, with a touch of Hank Chinaski thrown in for good measure. The prose is incisive, contemporary, and full of wisdom, while simultaneously confronting the near-future with an ironic and heuristic eye. Simply put, this wonderful book stretches the boundaries of the imagination way past boundaries I had previously imagined.