This is a very short novel written in 1954 and set in December 1936. The main characters are four men in their early thirties, unemployed and living with their parents in a working class neighborhood in an unnamed small city in Pennsylvania. The novel is structured as a sequence of vignettes, and it is not until the third chapter that you realize that it is actually a novel and not simply a set of related short stories.
I really don’t know what to think about this book. The characters are definitely not likable or inspiring in any way. The female characters seem pretty two-dimensional and the male characters have more than their share of character flaws: laziness, craftiness, alcohol abuse, self-delusion, self-absorption. Perhaps we are meant to understand that these flaws are simply artifacts of the terrible economic conditions of the time. The book has the kind of grittiness that you would associate with social realism, but the overall feel of the novel is almost surreal, or at least fuzzy around the edges.
It reminded me of Nathanael West’s “Day of the Locust”, but was not nearly as interesting.