In his novella, Locust House, San Diego-born author Adam Gnade writes about his homeland in the tradition of regionalists like Sherman Alexie, William Faulkner, and Willa Cather. Gnade’s chunk of Southern California is a place of border clash, of a glimpse of stormy sea from a top coastal hills or roller coasters, of ratty beach apartments and punk shows.
Locust House is the latest in Gnade’s ongoing life-project, a series of books and “talking songs” that share characters and continue story-lines in an attempt to document a personal history of America. In its pages Gnade borrows the classic structure of teen films like American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused to tell the story of one night in the life of a group of young Americans.
Here we see Gnade’s characters en route to (and at, and after) a house show featuring their favorite band, The Locust. We see the strain of contemporary American life on those who want it the least. We are given a wide view of lives in transition, of youth on the wane, of candidly depicted sex and cathartic bloodletting, of life in the vigorous prime before the pains of adulthood set in.
We’re also shown a lush, encyclopedic portrait of a place, of seashore and streets, of bedroom and back alley. It is a story that asks, “What does it mean to hold fast to your dreams, ethics, and beliefs while the whole world tries to tame you?” Locust House is a time capsule and a warning, a call-to-arms and, at its very heart, a love-letter.