Does the Picaresque Novel Still Have a Place in American Literature? 

Maybe a better question to start this conversation would be “did the picaresque novel ever have a place in American literature?”

The picaresque novel is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “relating to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero.” When I think of the picaresque the first story that comes to mind is Don Quixote published in 1605. It’s no coincidence the main character in Native Moments is named Sanch, by the way. However, the story that is credited with being the first picaresque tale, Lazarillo de Tormes, predates Don Quixote by nearly 50 years.

But what about in American literature? According to Hemingway, “All American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn” and some sources say that Twain wrote Huck Finn consciously as a picaresque novel. So, it seems as if American literature began in the picaresque. But where does it stand now? I think it’s safe to assume that we would all agree that On the Road is a picaresque story. One of my favorites, 92 in the Shade by Thomas McGuane is as well. Also, Confederacy of Dunces. What about more recent novels? Could we argue that Blood Meridian has some elements of the picaresque?

The reason I bring this up is that Native Moments was written consciously as picaresque and recently I received a review that calls my heroes, “mind numbingly ignorant.” He emailed me and said he hopes I wasn’t offended by that. I wasn’t. I chuckled when I read it because I think Drew Sievers, the reivewer, saw what I was doing with the story. The rest of the review was very favorable: “Ultimately, Schuck does a good job of showing the multilayered cake that is Costa Rica, complete with surfing paradise, dangerous fauna, unlimited vice, all of which is coated in a sweet, ironic icing of Pura Vida. This is a great book to toss in your board bag on your next surf trip.”

Here is the rest of the review:

I knew I was taking a risk on focusing my story on the non-traditional hero and I’m glad to see readers understanding what I was attempting. I’m sure there will be plenty who won’t and I’m prepared for those reviews, too. But for now I’ll relish in the good reviews I’ve received so far. 
Native Moments is available for pre-order. 

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