Professor Ben Metcalf Discusses His Novel 'Against the Country' on October 4
BY Zoe Contros Kearl, September 27, 2018
“Iconoclastic . . . Against the Country has obvious affinities to Southern Gothic, both in its voice and in the delight it takes in rural ignorance and grotesqueries. . . . [A] country cousin of David Foster Wallace.”—The New York Times Book Review
In a voice both perfectly American and utterly new, Ben Metcalf introduces the reader to Goochland County, Virginia—a land of stubborn soil, voracious insects, lackluster farms, and horrifying trees—and details one family’s pitiful struggle to survive there. Eventually it becomes clear that Goochland is not merely the author’s setting; it is a growing, throbbing menace that warps and scars every one of his characters’ lives.
“To find anything reminiscent of this writing you’d need to go back about 150 years, though it sounds new in Metcalf’s handling and occasionally even punk. What he has to say about American childhood is frightening and true. Virginia, you have been both honored and shamed by your wayward son.”—John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead: Essays.
Against The Country was published by Random House in January 2015. Metcalf was born in Illinois and raised in that state and later in rural Virginia. He was, for many years, the literary editor of Harper’s Magazine. His writing has appeared in The Baffler, Harper’s, and elsewhere, and has twice been included in The Best American Essays.