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Does Not Love

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Set in an archly comedic, alternate-reality Indianapolis that is completely overrun by Big Pharma, James Tadd Adcox's debut novel chronicles Robert and Viola's attempts to overcome loss through the miracles of modern pharmaceuticals. Their marriage crumbling after a series of miscarriages, Viola finds herself in an affair with the FBI agent who has recently appeared at her workplace, while her husband Robert becomes enmeshed in an elaborate conspiracy designed to look like a drug study.

James Tadd Adcox's first book The Map of the System of Human Knowledge was published in 2012 by Tiny Hardcore Press. His work has appeared in TriQuarterly, the Literary Review, PANK, Barrelhouse, and Another Chicago Magazine.

200 pages, Paperback

First published September 22, 2014

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James Tadd Adcox

16 books44 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews
Profile Image for Ashley.
262 reviews13 followers
October 4, 2014
full disclosure: the author is my brother...so maybe I'm a bit biased, but I'd like to believe I can set that aside and be objective (which, okay, I totally can't- but luckily in this case it truly doesn't matter, because the book is genuinely amazing)

The entire time I was reading it I kind of felt like I was being held under water. I felt claustrophobic. It was this slow churning misery that never really reached total misery, because you're almost too apathetic (but in an intense way) and settled and terrified to even acknowledge that misery.

Beautiful. Haunting. So incredibly full in all of its emptiness that it leaves you with a gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach.

For the most part I think putting too much emphasis on an ending is a little silly when 'reviewing' a book, but I can't help but mention that the ending is really phenomenal here...it's the only ending that makes sense. Or, rather, I suppose others would have made perfect sense, but this is the only one I can think of that feels right...it feels quite real and natural.

It was probably 5-6 years ago or so that I found myself driving around the West side of Indianapolis with my brother staring at old motels, hearing little snippets of his ideas for this book. Over the years I've thought about what it would turn in to and I would often ask if he was still working on it, because the concept was so intriguing that I found myself rooting for it and hoping that this wouldn't turn in to an abandoned idea or a finished piece that never sees the light of day. The concept and these characters never left my mind from the first time I heard about them, and it was well worth the wait to read the finished product!

Profile Image for Rebecca Brink.
17 reviews9 followers
December 28, 2014
So what happened with me and this book is that I heard Tadd (who I assume a first-name basis with merely because we have some mutual friends, although I can't profess to know much about him personally) read a portion at his book launch party (mutual friends), decided I really should buy the book, bought it, took two weeks to read the first half of it, and just finished the rest of it in one insomnious go this morning. I don't think the fact that we have mutual friends is really the "full disclosure" part of this review, I think the fact that I'm an insomniac is, because it may have affected my reading of it, but I don't think so. My original impulse was to give this five stars and then just have the review say "IT WASN'T EVEN ABOUT TIME TRAVEL." The fact that I didn't do that, I think, speaks to my good judgment.

First of all, I should compliment the book design, because Curbside really did do a terrific job with it. What can I say? I like having nice-looking books.

Second, the content itself: Like I said, it took me two weeks to read the first half of it. I think Kathleen Rooney's blurb about it starting slow and building tremendously in intensity is absolutely accurate and is the majority of the reason I stuck through. I kind of hated the narrative for a few days, although that could very well be intentional, since the book's protagonists are meant to be difficult, I think.

But there's so much else to the book that's engaging, other than the narrative, while you wait for the narrative to pick up. For example, the "chapters" of the book could stand on their own as flash fiction, or vignettes. Stick with me here, because I'm going to go on a tiny art rant: There's this artist I love, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and one of the forms he used was strings of lights. The COA for each of his light string pieces specifies a particular type of bulb, and a particular number of bulbs, each of which is meant to represent an unspecified life event. The gallery or museum can let them go out one by one, or replace them, which speaks to the idea that Gonzalez-Torres believed that his life was a string of fragmented moments out of which could be created a story. That he created several different light string installations means that by arranging different moments from the same life, you can create different stories, even though you're culling content from the same one person's life events. That is the structure Tadd used for this book: A carefully curated string of fragments, each of which stands on their own as a story. I think it's brilliant.

The use of that form requires more than a little bit of verbal finesse, because it calls for a great deal of minimalism in the writer's approach, which Tadd executes very, very well in Does Not Love. Toward the end of the book, there are these fantastic passages (and I mean "fantastic" in something close to the true sense of the word, though not exactly, because if you suspend disbelief [and you should], they read as real) that just convey so well the process of falling out of love, or coping with the idea that love can be a horrifying thing. He does an interesting thing in making that process an actual, physical set of actions carried out by the protagonists. It's a troubling set of passages and a very effective narrative climax.

I'm sure that there will be a few readers who complain that those passages raise a whole lot of logistical questions that are just totally bypassed and unanswered - and I'm sure because I write on the internet for a living and SHEESH do people want all the answers to everything always (and I'm also hoping that those people read this book because it's very, very good) - but really, just suspend your disbelief and roll with it, it's a more satisfying emotional experience that way. I bring this point up mainly because I want to get to my next point, which is that those surreal scenes demonstrated so much control over language, and so much intention in crafting setting and action. I don't want to overstate it, but there are not many authors who manage to create so much meaning with so little actual text.

My tendency as a ladyblogger is to read politics and authorial intention into everything I read (which makes reading fiction frustrating and boring for me). That's partially my own acute awareness of bias and the fact that many, many authors don't know how to write themselves out of their fiction (or, alternatively, write themselves in in a way that's self-aware). Like a method actor, a really good one, Tadd managed to create fiction in which I was unable to do so. It's not that the politics of the book are acceptable to me, it's that they're not relevant. He wrote a book about being or not being in love, basically, and the book is about that. Method author? Can we coin that as a phrase for authors who manage to write fictional stories that are through-and-through their own creations, but embodiments of things other than their own dispositions? You're told, as a writer, that you're supposed to create the characters and let the characters write the story, and that's what Tadd did. I hate to be prescriptive about fiction and say that this or that is what fiction "should" or "shouldn't" be, but I think that that's the most successful fiction for the reader.

Apologies for the profusely long review, of course, but when I'm enthusiastic about a work of art, it's hard for me not to really dig into it (I also become more verbose when exhausted). I am very, very enthusiastic about this book.
Profile Image for Nick.
175 reviews49 followers
March 15, 2016
"I think one of the problems with growing up as a kid who spent basically all of her time reading is that it's hard to accept the idea that this single life is all you get...You get so used to the idea of a narrative arc to things, of life as a sort of meaningful unit, of being able to switch from one life to another and from one head to another. And on some level you begin to think that that's how thing actually are, that you can try something out, and if you don't like it, you can just switch. That at some point you get to be everything. Then suddenly you're twenty five years old, thirty, and you realize you only actually get one life and one head to be inside of."

DOES NOT LOVE is a curious yet affecting fast-paced novel in the style of Don Delillo by way of MFA workshop. Stylistically, there's a matter of factness that shares a kinship with Delillo, allowing the reader to provide emotional texture. Tonally the novel has much more in common with Offill's excellent DEPT OF SPECULATION in that the sense of dread and alienation Delillo works with is much more abstracted than here where it is laid bare at your feet, impossible to ignore, something that must be confronted. And yet the plot recalls a drawn out Saunders story.

This isn't to say Adcox hasn't found his voice (or that he isn't developing it still), but that the shards of influence are lodged thoughtfully within this novel. Though I cant say I was utterly devastated upon completion, this is still tragic, heart rending stuff. Adcox is one to keep an eye on, I predict he'll only get better as he publishes more work.
Profile Image for Joseph Peterson.
Author 11 books17 followers
October 7, 2014
DOES NOT LOVE by James Tadd Adcox is a dystopic-marriage-catastrophe novel. I speed read the thing into a state of readerly asphyxiation. Indeed the clean, nearly flawless and objective prose reached out seductively and grabbed my attention like a gloved hand and it did not relent its hold until the final pages.

The novel starts out conventionally enough with a well observed and sensitively drawn portrait of a couple who struggle with love and sex in the wake of their miscarriage. There is plenty of blame, hurt and self-abuse to go around. The wife, Viola, makes the strange claim that her womb has become a grave and she repeats this to her husband who rebuts the absurd claim, but one senses he rebuts it in vain.

The novel takes place in depopulated Indianapolis whose citizens are haunted by the notion of a secret law. Big Pharma is somehow conjoined to the secret law and lurking members of the FBI are the secret enforcers of the secret law.

In the daylight of objective day, this is all absurd conspiracy theory. But once this married couple starts grinding up and consuming pharmaceuticals whose prescriptive purpose is to bring couples together "like happy voles" the dark side effects of the medicine takes hold and the couple falls helplessly into a labyrinthine alternative world of guinea-piggers who inhabit the subterranean tunnels below Indianapolis.

In this world, horned children of savage intensity prowl the streets; mobs of helpless guinea-piggers (people who have been forcibly coopted by Big-pharma in their experimental drug trials) are controlled by baton wielding police and former lovers take on horrific doppelganger-like qualities.

Long story short... what starts out as a straight-forward portrait of a marriage ends up as a wonderfully imagined dystopic and noirish catastrophe that left me, at least, thrilled to have gone along for the ride.
Profile Image for Tim Jones-Yelvington.
Author 13 books65 followers
October 16, 2014
Four years ago, when our mutual friend told me Tadd was working on an S & M detective novel (I was supposed to read and provide feedback on an earlier draft, but am lame and never got to it, which is another story entirely), I don't think I expected something that would operate on so many levels as this.... there is the domestic drama, and the Kafkaesque paranoia/horror, the absurdist humor... but what I think ties it all together is this deep pathos... I try to avoid the word "human" because it is such a limiting and loaded word, but in this case, I am unsure how else to describe what I mean. At its core, this struck me as a novel about the impact of depression on relationships. Yes, Viola's miscarriages are the catalyst, but to a certain extent they're a cipher, or a stand-in for the void. This is a book that works its way into and through a great deal of terror and sadness, somewhere at the intersection of the existential and the social and the cultural and relational, but what makes it tick is, I feel, that it's deeply personal, i.e. it's, pardon the cliche, deeply and personally felt.
81 reviews10 followers
March 25, 2021
Really enjoyed this one. I liked how the world in this book seems to be the same as ours, but with a few things that are extremely strange. The first half of the book concentrates of the troubles of a married couple, after the woman suffers a miscarriage (her third) leaves the couple still childless. The wife is depressed, bored and sexually unsatisfied, while her husband is understanding but frustrated. In the background, there are discussions of a strange "secret law", a serial killer murdering people in the pharmaceutical industry (including the firm that the lawyer husband is representing in a lawsuit), and a shady FBI agent hanging around the library where the wife works.

The first half of this book allows us to know these characters before things get pretty bonkers and a lot stranger in the second half. I thought the book was good if not especially engaging early-on, but it really comes together later as it continues.

I've seen comparisons to DeLillo which aren't off-base, and the paranoia that's always lurking in the background is reminiscent of Pynchon, though the writing here is more accessible than either.
Profile Image for Paul Phillips.
40 reviews
September 21, 2017
I thought this book to be unique in its approach to the plot and I appreciate how the author commingled outrageous circumstances and real world problems all while developing two fleshed out and real characters in a dystopian future that is almost too familiar.
Profile Image for Matt.
Author 11 books94 followers
September 3, 2014
I intend to write a proper review of this novel in short order (and of course I should mention Tadd is a friend of mine). However, I believe I'd be saying praising things of this novel if I'd never known Tadd. This is quite an accomplishment, especially for a debut novel. I think comparisons to novels like White Noise are entirely apt. Robert and Viola's "love" story is so beautifully fucked up. As I say, I intend to write more about this one, but for now let this serve as my enthusiastic recommendation.

UPDATE: I wrote a proper review on my blog: http://literaryequations.blogspot.com...
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 32 books1,138 followers
October 10, 2014
Blurbed it! “Like the instructional DVD on rough sex watched by its protagonists, James Tadd Adcox’s Does Not Love starts gentle, then builds to higher intensities. A funny-sad story of the heroism of retaining human emotions in a society quick to pathologize them, this novel looks hard at the possibilities and emptinesses of love.”
Profile Image for Shannon A.
313 reviews19 followers
October 31, 2014
"We strive to put the world in some kind of order, to turn chaos of sensation into the beauty of theory, of explanation." - (pages 159-160)

Interesting and fresh.
Profile Image for Stephen.
14 reviews
December 16, 2014
This is the best book I have read all year.

"There's clearly some misunderstanding, Robert thinks. I have a JD, for Godssake. I am wearing a suit."
Profile Image for Brad.
727 reviews
June 19, 2017
Imagine a Miranda July plot in which a marriage is somehow challenged by pharmaceutical companies and the FBI, only trade out her whimsy for David Lynch-ian weirdness. That's Does Not Love for me. And similar to Lynch, not all of the pieces make logical sense, but we are in a different world--albeit one that looks like our own. Fulfillment can be found in letting the story pass through you, leaving you changed. (p. 180 and 181 are particularly pleasing in their brilliance, should you need a small, spoiler-free taste.)

I tore through this book, reading it in about two days. I'm giving it three-and-a-half stars. The first two-thirds were four stars for me, while the final third fell short for me. (Perhaps my expectations were too high because of a friend's recommendation.)

Profile Image for scoffs, calumnies, etc..
24 reviews2 followers
October 5, 2020
A friend gave me this book and that's why I read it. I normally don't care for stuff written in the present tense or for books about disintegrating relationships but i will gratefully carve out an exception for this book, which is very good and which i recommend very much. It's very funny in a deadpan sort of way, moving but not too moving. The prose is clean and quick and a pleasure to read. I'm going to excerpt it because I think I can sell you on this book with one passage:
"Primarily, the FBI is going to investigate. That's something the FBI is very good about. The FBI has labs like you wouldn't believe, full of technologies so new they don't even have names yet, and we bring the full weight of this technology to bear on investigating. Plus, the FBI can fit into very tight spaces. Any space large enough for the FBI to get its head into, it can fit into that space. You might think that you have hidden something very well - someplace that you feel no one in a hundred years would think to look - underneath a floorboard, or sewn into the bottom of your mattress, or inside a crack in the wall of your house leading, so far as you know, only to the terrifying emptiness beyond. In all likelihood, the FBI has already found it. The FBI will squirm into those spaces you thought forever hidden, and we will find what you have put there. And then we will test those things, in our labs."

I read this book like 2 years ago and I still think about that 'graf all the time and sometimes laugh out loud. There's also something charming about the fact that half of the people reviewing it here seem to know the author, which, I don't know the author, but if I did i would tell him 'hey man, good book.'
Profile Image for Sophia Johnson.
Author 5 books11 followers
December 26, 2018
I had an idea of what I was getting into, having read a snippet from the & Now Awards for a class. The synopsis gives it away as for the plot, but it doesn’t give away a lot of the questionable choices and quick turn around. The author writes without much detail and sometimes doesn’t even mention of the shift in setting or time. This is another story of a woman that is unhappy in her marriage—after some stuff happens—and has to find a way to break free. What is not the same is really how it is told and what they seem to be fighting against. This would be where the innovation comes in. This story has an interesting way of being realistic and outwardly insane, like when Robert talks to the emptiness. It is short bursts like this that gives it something extra.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rowena.
214 reviews4 followers
September 28, 2017
Gave this 100 pages, which felt equivalent to the nutritional value of white bread. Bought this on recommendation for a book that is weird/surreal but not completely out there. This does fit that description but felt neither real enough to be engaging nor strange enough to be more than just arbitrary (mostly referring to the passages involving the FBI guy). The person who recommended it did say he hadn't finished it, so I guess I should have taken that as a clue...
Author 1 book9 followers
August 19, 2017
From the first page to the last Does Not Love is a hard book to put down. Written in a direct almost minimalistic prose with nary a wasted word, Does Not Love tells the story of an Indianapolis couple, Rover and Viola, struggling through personal loss in a alternate reality where pharmaceutical companies run amok and government spooks enforce the secret law. Told in three acts, what starts off as a story about marital problems quickly becomes interspersed with scenes of class warfare, outlandish conspiracy theory and Orwellian government oversight. The entire novel moves forward like a rolling wave you'll want to ride all the way to it's conclusion.
Profile Image for Drew.
1,569 reviews503 followers
April 14, 2016
3.5 out of 5. It’s a short read and Adcox has some of the sly Vonnegutian wit that allows a writer to comment from above on ridiculous human situations – but it never quite comes together. Perhaps this is due to the VERY short chapters, giving a ViewMaster-esque reading experience, or to the author’s desire to focus not on the bigger issues in the world of the novel but instead on the smaller, infinitely unknowable distance that can occur between a man and a women (even when they are in love). I’m intrigued to see where Adcox goes next – because he definitely has a keen eye for a world just sideways from ours.

More at RB: https://ragingbiblioholism.com/2015/1...
8 reviews
September 5, 2015
Viola and Robert have experienced three miscarriages which have created a problem in their marriage. Robert is too boring and Viola is too sad. On top of that an FBI agent is investigating them for possibly breaking the secret law, and members of an underground society of pharmaceutical test subjects are planning take over the city. The characters question the meaning of love and happiness and if these states are even possible. The writing is to the point, giving readers the opportunity to interpret motives, meanings, and events.
Profile Image for Ryan Michael .
100 reviews26 followers
January 14, 2016
Picked this one up as a "Staff Pick" at my local Bookstore "Malaprops" in downtown Asheville, NC. Glad I did, as this first novel from James Tadd Adcox is more than worth the time. I haven't read too many books in my years on this planet but his story selling was different than most other things I've read, and seemed like a very real plot with lots of unusual yet engaging twists and turns in the relationship of the two main characters. A fairly quick read but a very good one, I look forward to his next book
Profile Image for Megan Kirby.
353 reviews22 followers
October 9, 2014
UPFRONT BIAS: I am now working for this publisher, but I thought Does Not Love was kind of an astounding book. Funny, sad, meta-without-being-annoying (which I never say!), self-aware satire that still manages to have quite a bit of heart. On the book-as-object side of things, the book design is equally clever and eye-catching. I was in a month-long reading funk, and this is the first novel I've read cover-to-cover in awhile, so it was a great way to break out of that stupor.
Profile Image for Sal.
154 reviews4 followers
December 24, 2015
It's pretty rare that I find a novel that's engaging enough that I feel compelled to read it in one sitting. I did that toady with "Does Not Love."

I see DeLillo, I see Vonnegut, I see Orwell. It's meta, it's post-modern, it's fragmented. It's an enjoyable read and very fast-paced, the sort of novel where there's a bit of something for everyone. Even in the relative sparse, direct prose, there is still the emotional punch despite the world of grey.
Profile Image for Samuel Moss.
Author 6 books51 followers
April 19, 2015
Sort of reminds me if Delillo had a sense of humor and was a bit more flighty. A cool concept but I wish the book had more substance and weight too it, had been drawn out more.

Very nice for a first novel and I'll definitely be following Adcox' work in the future.
8 reviews
August 14, 2015
This book was so. good. Really fast paced writing while still being about relationships. Very unique, not quite like anything I've ever read before. Will definitely read other books from this publisher.
3 reviews7 followers
January 9, 2015
Fantastic prose, interesting storyline, reads like a believable yet horrifying play by play of the world.
Profile Image for Monica Basukoski.
4 reviews7 followers
February 27, 2015
I finished t a week ago and I'm still thinking about it. You can, scarily, see aspects of your own relationships in theirs and it can help you wonder if your whole life is going to fall apart too.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews

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