In Ron Currie Jr.’s new novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, a wildly popular novelist is accused of faking his own death to become a tragic success story, and even he believes he’s guilty. Explaining himself for his memoir, the novelist—also named Ron Currie Jr.—professes to stick to the truth, but dances merrily on the line between fiction and non-fiction, favoring the livelier one.
The site of Ron’s supposed death was the remote island where he moved after his girlfriend Emma asked for some space to finalize her divorce from another man. Ron should be working on his novel, but he’s drowning himself in rum and picking fights with locals; when everything he’s writing points to Emma, his old high-school sweetheart re-encountered after 20 years, he craves escape from even his small obligation toward her. After local authorities mistakenly report him as dead, Ron slips away, unaware that the manuscript he left behind will be published and elevate him to the status usually reserved for dead writers. (A macabre but effective detail comes from the viral success of Ron’s suicide note, and its popularity among lovers who commit suicide.)
After Ron resurfaces, a battery of civil trials demand he account for his actions, but first, he and the judges must isolate the crimes. Beneath the cleverness at play in Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles lies the raw confession of an addict who uses alcohol and other people to cover his weakness for manipulating his own stories. That’s why he has trouble answering to accusations of a hoax—Ron’s suspicion of the truth began long before he started writing. Even his relationship with Emma breaks down as he writes it, destabilizing from the generic meet-cute until his entire account of her is suspect. Currie weaves Ron’s father’s painful death into the love story, amplifying this effect: The more floridly he expresses his feelings, the phonier they sound, with some scenes pointlessly cruel in their rendering of human suffering.
It’s a relief that the story Ron—and by extension, Currie—are addicted to telling around these effusions of emotion is a splashy wreck, terrifically paced even though it’s full of weird inlets, with chance encounters and patterns Ron doesn’t pick up on. His Hunter S. Thompson kind of life often stops just short of willful annihilation, but its excesses are suspect, given the book he left behind. Still, Currie’s mash-up of the faux confessional and the impressively depraved is compelling enough to addict his fictional contemporaries to the form.