Ann Herendeen's Reviews > Krakow Melt

Krakow Melt by Daniel Allen Cox
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Jun 09, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-recently

Krakow Melt is a darker, more moving book than I expected going in. As other reviewers have pointed out, the narrative is disjointed, and it feels like it's going to be one of those fun, edgy books that evaporates an hour after you finish it. "I appear to be made of school, not neologisms," a character says, fearing she won't write anything worthwhile, and while that makes me laugh in sympathy, it also expresses my own ambivalence about the book.

Daniel Allen Cox does a great job of creating an original voice: Radek, the Polish narrator, who struggles with having to write in a foreign language. Through Radek, Cox paints a convincing portrait of this intensely homophobic, socially backward, former communist country. Ads for tampons are scraped off billboards when the Pope is dying, "as if feminine hygiene was deemed too vile a subject to acknowledge at such a 'holy' time."

I especially liked Radek's refusal to embrace the standard pieties of old-fashioned gay liberation, as when, during a protest march, a gay elephant is used as a mascot with the legend "Because God made me this way." Radek complains, "Why couldn't [the elephant] simply fuck other males because he wanted to? Why did he need permission from above?" A timely sentiment in the age of Lady Gaga.
But even as Radek and Dorota, the woman who befriends him, combine art and fire in a form of protest, I was not prepared for the way the mood darkened later in the story.

I've given Krakow Melt five stars because I thought it was "amazing," as the Goodreads rating system works. It's not the best book I ever read, but it's original, outrageous, angry, and well-written--everything I most admire in a book. Cox, like his narrator, Radek, doesn't look at things the way most other people do, and the fate he writes for his character is the usual one for rebels.
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