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Author offers homage to Holden Caulfield with Lowboy

Elizabeth Fox

Issue date: 3/20/09 Section: Focus
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Take Holden Caulfield's trip to New York, with all its scum, skyscrapers, and overwhelming subcultures intact. Add more nuance, throw in a batch of neuroses, and a case of schizophrenia and you've got Will Heller, the groundbreaking protagonist, and his own journey, chronicled in Lowboy, a new novel by John Wray.

Wray steers us in a direction that is both enlightening and harrowing. The story follows a cynical and observant 16-year-old (in homage to J.D. Salinger's finest and most well-known hero) who has been raised to believe his schizophrenia obscures him from the world, in turn making him appear as a grotesque hunchback to the rest of society.

However, in a journey through the New York City subway system, his perception of self is drastically changed: though his erratic mental behavior sometimes renders him the plaything of his neuroses or whims or emotions, he is not like the disheveled outcasts who have drifted the corner of 34th and Seventh. Contrary to his distorted self-perception, he is a socially acceptable human being.

However, his journey is not travelled alone. Heller makes the decision to disappear in the early hours of a cold New York morning...without telling anyone. This is how other characters, including miscellaneous subway dwellers and travelers, a worried mother, a skilled detective, and (surprisingly) a girlfriend, are neatly woven into the story. Their voices carry the novel to a new level and help assure the reader that Will Heller is not meant for a life of constant vagrancy.

Through rhythmic description, structured prose, and a perfect pace, Heller's ups and downs culminate into an account that leaves the reader saddened and emotionally exhausted. It is a novel with Dionysian thematics - it tears the mind and soul apart. However, this is not to say Wray's characters (and their situations) are handled harshly. In fact, they were created with great sensitivity and focus. Most people have no problem talking about schizophrenia and associated disorders from a distant standpoint, but to dig into it so much that the masses are capable of identifying with the happiness and woes of a disturbed protagonist is a gift to both the literary world and society as a whole.

Because the book is such a hard pill to swallow, Lowboy should not be cited as an easy, fresh read. In those 272 pages, an appalling struggle is chronicled. Though it is Wray's third critically-acclaimed novel, it is not the sort that will raise literary standards, and it won't be hailed as the best novel ever written (not even as a modern classic), but it definitely displays a critical sense of character and how important a role voice plays in painting an avant-garde portrait of the subconscious.
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In This Issue


  • Alum shares experience as legal clerk for Supreme Court Justice
  • Forgotten legends: the blockade of Euclid Avenue
  • Hudson Relays
  • Planning ahead with life insurance
  • Second annual Relay For Life raises over $88,000
  • Showing off: Research ShowCASE provides opportunity to present latest research
  • Source of success: fifth annual SOURCE Symposium celebrates students' research

The Buzz

  • The Buzz

USG Briefs

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Worst Case Scenario

  • Worst Case Scenario: 2009-10 preview


  • Baseball: Spartans lose to Wooster at Progressive Field
  • Seven-to-five job
  • Softball: Spartan bats silent against Bluffton
  • Spartan Spotlight: Allen Ye
  • Top 10 Spartan sports stories of 2008 - 2009
  • What to watch for this summer

Fun Page

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  • Case Culture: Summer break shouldn't break your back
  • Editorial: Semester grades
  • Global Scorning: Earth Day: Don't assume it's only about "flower power"
  • Red, White, and Skewed: So many crises, so little time


  • Alternative Press editor offers disappointing analysis of scene culture
  • Case alumnus Girl Talk returns for end-of-year blowout
  • Cleveland Museum of Art hosts unique exhibition of powerful African artwork
  • Juggling Club's end of year spectacular wows audience with skill
  • Sex and Dating: Remembering those who matter
  • Spartans of Style: What not to wear
  • Stand-up comedy show tonight
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