All posts tagged: lyrical first-person monologues

The Impossible Pursuit of a Good Death

The Impossible Pursuit of a Good Death

Two years into recovery from a bad romance with booze and other drugs, an Iranian American poet makes a half-hearted attempt to redeem his misspent youth. He decides to write a book about people whose deaths retroactively imbued their lives with meaning: Joan of Arc, the early Muslim leader Hussain, the Irish Republican Army militant Bobby Sands, and, though he’s still alive, himself. Such is the premise of Kaveh Akbar’s first novel, Martyr!, an existential comedy about the difficulty of finding beauty in banality and sense in suffering. The novel opens in abjection. The protagonist, Cyrus Shams, lies prostrate on his piss-stained mattress in a college town in 2010s Indiana, beset by the anxious stupor that befalls those who do “the right drugs in the wrong order.” In a gesture as old as Saint Augustine’s Confessions and Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, he prays for a sign from God. But this particular drunken supplicant happens to be intimately familiar with the tradition of drunken supplication, and he knows that he’s too wretched to expect a grand gesture. …