The Sadly Beautiful World of Willy Vlautin

I picked up Willy Vlautin’s 2006 debut novel, The Motel Life, on a whim in a cool little bookstore in, I think, Northhampton, Mass., for no other reason than I liked the cover. It made me feel something, a mixture of curiousity and sadness. I read it in hotels in strange cold beds, and in stolen moments in cars, which is probably how a book of its kind should be read.

It follows the tragic arc of two hard-luck brothers from Reno, Nevada as they run both from a tragic accident and themselves. There’s not a simile, metaphor, or compound sentence to be found anywhere. The language reflects the desolation of the desert landscapes and the lives of the characters. There’s no artifice whatsoever for the truth to hide behind.

If you like Bukowski, Denis Johnson, Jim Thompson, the films of the Coen Brothers, or the songs of Tom Waits, you will find poetry in the work of Willy Vlautin.

Vlautin is also the songwriter and vocalist for the respected Portland, OR country band Richmond Fontaine.

Here’s a reading, with beautiful video, from his new novel, Northline, which I should say I have not read. Yet. The latter is a video from Richmond Fontaine.

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