A mildly satirical novel featuring yet another neurotic upper-middle-class family could be predicted from the plot strokes that introduce Something New Under the Sun. That’s just deception, though, and Kleeman is a master at it. What comes next is a powerful, brilliant, insane, and incredibly upsetting portrait of both who we are and what we might develop into. Although the themes are rhyming with Chinatown and Soylent Green, the metafictional style is reminiscent of literary trailblazers like Jesse Ball or Ben Marcus, or even Vladimir Nabokov in his mind-bending masterpiece Pale Fire.
Something New Under the Sun has beautiful sentences and sun-drenched, sharply observed, and quick-paced. The way the narrative disorients itself is what makes it unusual and novel. It pays close attention to a lot of details that are not directly related to the plots of Patrick and Cassidy, Alison, and Nora, such as every flame in a wildfire, ancient marine life, or the plastic taste of soft furnishings in a carpet beetle’s mouth. The book contains additional reality, but reading it is strangely surreal because it reveals disturbing truths about this “world as a whole, trembling with life and violence,” which hidden in plain sight.
Kleeman’s Debut Book
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, Kleeman’s debut book, was notable for its meticulous attention to detail. It seem as though the prose looking closer than the human eye when it describe oranges in segments and human skin seen pore by pore. In brief, passages that veer off into largely unknown worlds, Something New Under the Sun develops this sharp focus: sewage pipes, the epicenter of a wildfire, and a prehistoric seascape. It has become cliche to refer to a fictional setting as a character in a story when it receives a lot of attention. That cliche assumes that weather fronts or forests don’t typically cause things to happen.
The criticism can leveled at the tradition of the novel, which what Something New Under the Sun interested in. The intimate human stories that make up the bulk of literary fiction in tension with the non-human worlds in which they are set, thanks to Kleeman. She explores the various ways that the personal tangled up in the environment and vice versa through playful writing rather than lecturing.
Overall, Alexandra Kleeman makes a radical decision in that she invites readers to imagine alongside her as she spends the entirety of her book imagining a great thirst. A eulogy, a ghost story, and a well-informed ode to the ways and forms of life obliterated by human appetites are all found in Something New Under the Sun. It is a piece of art, which is what matters most.