BETTER is a work that constantly begs readers to question the relationship between its title and its content. Is the main character, William, a sometimes struggling, often times self-content alcoholic, living carefree in his friend Double Felix’s bachelor pad trying to get better? Or are we meant to wonder what could be better than living for free in a luxuriant, stripper stocked east L.A. palace over looking the Pacific Ocean? While Double Felix’s past and source of income haunt William, John O’brien’s unique narrative style, articulate and prose-poetic, captures the impulses of human cognitive thought.
From p. 61 of BETTER:
"Now bristling with what should be exhilaration at facing another new day but is in fact psychosomatic alcohol withdrawal, I assess the hallway, find it in good order, and hasten to the big room for a gin and some morning television. It is rapidly approaching seven a.m., and I want to be sure to catch what I can of all three introductory indexes to each of the morning-network-magazine-news shows; barring any unusual complications, such as potentially interesting subject matter, I can then switch over to one of Los Angeles’ myriad independents, who are never too proud to rerun a seventies sitcom or a titillating aerobics production at this or any other hour."
John O’brien’s knowledge of the landscape will stand up to any native of Los Angeles. BETTER is very much a novel of overcoming vice and power, two elements found just as easily as the sand on its beaches. Anyone familiar with unwavering glimmer of Southern California’s coastal region will recognize not just the back drop for the story, but a third character, complete with its own nuances and subterfuge providing the perfect context to William and Double Felix’s drunken ordeals.
This blog post is guest-written by Akashic Books intern Daniel Bindschedler