Raymond, Jonathan

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RAYMOND, Jonathan

PERSONAL: Born in CA. Education: Attended Swarthmore College; New School University, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Bloomsbury Publishing Place, 38 Soho Sq., London W1D 3HB, England.

CAREER: Author. Formerly an editor at Plazm magazine.


The Half-Life (novel), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Jonathan Raymond made a strong debut with his first novel, The Half-Life. In the book, the geography of Portland, Oregon, links two storylines, one from the early nineteenth century and one from the 1980s. The earlier story involves two men who become friends under strange circumstances. Cookie works for a fur trapping party that is running out of food. While foraging, he discovers Henry, naked and hiding from Russians who have killed his Indian friends. Henry convinces Cookie that they can make a fortune by extracting and selling castoreum, a beaver musk valued by the Chinese. The pair makes it to China, but Cookie winds up in prison. Chapters of this story alternate with that of Tina and Trixie, teens who meet on a hippie commune in the same area. Trixie arrives at the commune after getting in legal trouble in Los Angeles. Tina also hails from Los Angeles, and has reluctantly left because her mother lost her job. The girls decide to fill their time by making a film together, but need the funds to do so. They decide to grow marijuana as a way of making money. The themes of friendship, entrepreneurship, and relocation already link these two tales; yet when the commune's owner discovers a pair of skeletons in a swamp, the friends' stories are further bound together.

Reviewers described the novel as ambitious and, often, exceptional. Writing in Artforum, Nina Mehta remarked that "the author's regard for the natural world is one of this novel's chief delights." On the other hand, Mehta commented that "the friendships never quite jell." Los Angeles Times critic Mark Rozzo noted that, "as entertaining and audacious as The Half-Life is, there's an alarming lack of focus as the book moves forward." Rozzo concluded, however, that Raymond's novel "is a potent fairy tale of who we are, how we got here and the unknowable history under our feet."

Other critics also applauded The Half-Life. According to Booklist contributor Jay Freeman, Raymond draws "a seductively beautiful landscape" and "seamlessly links the two narratives with elegant and often haunting prose." A Kirkus Reviews writer stated that The Half-Life is an "impressive debut" and that the story is "unglamorous and sad, but compelling." Jeff Zaleski called the book "ambitious and assured" in Publishers Weekly, concluding, "The synchronicity of the two stories is subtly engineered and never belabored."



Artforum, summer, 2004, Nina Mehta, review of The Half-Life, p. 53.

Booklist, May 15, 2004, Jay Freeman, review of The Half-Life, p. 1611.

Denver Post, May 9, 2004, Sybil Downing, review of The Half-Life, p. F12.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2004, review of The Half-Life, p. 199.

Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2004, Mark Rozzo, review of The Half-Life, p. R10.

Publishers Weekly, March 8, 2004, Jeff Zaleski, review of The Half-Life, p. 45.


Bookbrowse.com,http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (August 26, 2004), "Jonathan Raymond."*

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