From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
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High fashion and homeland security clash in a masterful debut.
Boyet Hernandez is a small man with a big American dream when he arrives in New York in 2002, fresh out of design school in Manila. With dubious financing and visions of Fashion Week runways, he sets up shop in a Brooklyn toothpick factory, pursuing his goals with monkish devotion (distractions of a voluptuous undergrad not withstanding). But mere weeks after a high-end retail order promises to catapult his (B)oy label to the big time, there's a knock on the door in the middle of the night: the flamboyant ex-Catholic Boyet is brought to Gitmo, handed a Koran, and locked away indefinitely on suspicion of being linked to a terrorist plot. Now, from his 6' x 8' cell, Boy prepares for the trial of his life with this intimate confession, even as his belief in American justice begins to erode.
With a nod to Junot Diaz and a wink to Gary Shteyngart, Alex Gilvarry's first novel explores some of the most serious issues of our time with dark eviscerating wit.
-John Freeman, Boston Globe
"In this funny debut, flashy Filipino fashion designer Boy Hernandez sees his American dream become a nightmare when he's ensnared in a terrorist plot and shipped to Guantanamo. Gilvarry nails the couture scene, but Boy's rough journey from Manolo to Gitmo is no joke."
-Andrew Abrahams, People
"It's rare for a novel to tread so fearlessly into the political and yet to emerge so deeply funny and humane. Gilvarry is a young talent on the rise. Watch him gallop through the mess we've made of our civilization with style and panache."
-Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan
"The deepest intelligence is poetic, incisive and inordinately funny. Heads up, folks. Alex Gilvarry just walked through the door."
-Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and Zoli
"From the Memoirs of a Non-enemy Combatant is sharply written and wryly witty, touching on the sensitivities and paranoia of post-9/11 America. . . . Combining a Kafkaesque hero with a captivating "coming to New York" story, Gilvarry's debut is a timely and touching triumph."
-Stephanie Turza, Booklist
"One of the best celebrations and condemnations of American fear and ambition since Bellow's Augie March was doing the celebrating and condemning."
-Brock Clarke, author of Exley and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
"This is a sly, witty novel. You'll be quoting lines from it to your friends."
-David Bezmozgis, author The Free World
"Finally, a young American novelist who has the guts to confront the absurdity of the last decade. Gilvarry has given us a sly, hilarious, and wickedly insightful book about living in the United States (or trying to live in the U.S.) in the aftermath of September 11th. Fashion, terrorism, New York and Guantanamo Bay: in the hands of Gilvarry, hilarity ensues. A brilliant debut."
-Michael Hastings, author of "The Runaway General" (Rolling Stone) and The Operators
"A smart, funny novel with political undertones that will also be particularly enjoyable for those with an interest in fashion . . . [Gilvarry's] style and dark humor are subtle and witty . . . The events that unfold are equally disturbing and entertaining."
-Shaunna E. Hunter, Library Journal
"A talented writer and observer . . . [Gilvarry] skillfully captures the frenetic world of striving designers."
"From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant (Viking, Jan.) is a bold novel-bold in its style, its thesis, and its story. While Alex Gilvarry's narrative and characters are big and playful, the underlying premises are deadly serious. What happens to those falsely accused or mistakenly detained when the remedies of the American criminal justice system are unavailable to them? How does one prove one's innocence when the system is set up to prove one's guilt? How does an unknown fashion designer launch his work in New York City? Okay, that's not serious but it was certainly interesting. Gilvarry skillfully navigates the space between black comedy and farce without delivering a polemic. His intriguing characters include the aspiring Filipino fashion designer Boyet Hernandez, his one-time Ivy League girlfriend, his financial backer-cum-arms dealer, his unfortunately named attorney Ben Laden, and a mysterious chronicler. Gilvarry gives us a debut novel that is delightful without being sophomoric. I loved reading the book and look forward to selling it in my store: it's just our kind of book."
-Catherine Weller, Publishers Weekly "Galley Talk"
Alex Gilvarry is a native of Staten Island, New York. He is the founding editor of the website, Tottenville Review; he has been named a Norman Mailer Fellow, and his writing has appeared in The Paris Review. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Cambridge Massachusetts.