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Reuss, Frederick 1960-

REUSS, Frederick 1960-

PERSONAL: Born 1960, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Pantheon Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.

CAREER: Writer.

WRITINGS:

Horace Afoot, MacMurray and Beck (Denver, CO), 1997.

Henry of Atlantic City, MacMurray and Beck (Denver, CO), 1999.

The Wasties, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Frederick Reuss has emerged as a writer of unusual, off-kilter novels that place odd characters in ordinary settings that seem incapable of comprehending them. In Horace Afoot, a middle-aged loner with a modest, independent income decides to settle in the small Midwestern town of Oblivion. Horace, who has taken his name from the ancient Roman poet, is given to making random phone calls to the residents, challenging them to explain the nature of beauty or true happiness. Naturally, the loner soon gains a reputation as a weirdo, and at first his desire to live without attachments is fulfilled. But gradually he develops a friendship with the town librarian, and gets caught up with a rape victim named Sylvia, whose messy life of hoodlums and drug deals draws him into Oblivion's buried secrets and puts his own life in danger.

For Washington Post reviewer Michael Dirda, "The narrative voice is particularly congenial—cool and unflappable, often humorous without being laugh-outloud funny, particularly when Horace reacts to and tries to interpret the events around him." Similarly, Booklist reviewer Nancy Pearl found Horace Afoot a "quietly humorous, engaging novel." Although he described the central character as "a bit wearing," a Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that Horace's "voice lingers, as do many scenes in this terse, moving explanation of modern anomie and the longing for—and fear of—intimacy."

In Henry of Atlantic City, Reuss presents a six-year-old oddity who has memorized the Gnostic Gospels and believes himself to be a saint living in fifth-century Byzantium. More prosaically, Henry is the son of a Caesar's Palace security officer who has skipped out after embezzling millions of dollars from his employer, leaving the boy to make his way in a world of abusive, hostile, or simply confounded adults. For Henry, the two worlds join together, so that a local mobster becomes the Emperor Justinian, cars turn into chariots, and the casino becomes the actual Caesar's Palace. As Henry travels around, he encounters priests and prostitutes, thieves and police officers, none of whom seem to accept his sainthood—or to shake his certainty that he is nonetheless indeed a saint, as an invisible angel assures him. "Along the way, Reuss shows us
. . . the dark philosophical and psychological labyrinths in which we search for glimmers of ourselves," according to Booklist reviewer Veronica Scrol. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "Reuss achieves a brilliant pathos, reminding us that at any age, 'loneliness is the most meaningless treasure in existence.'" For a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "this ambitious fiction—blending a child's search for love and certainty with a restless examination of the nature of faith—is often profoundly moving. It is also further evidence that Reuss is one of our most unpredictable and original novelists."

Reuss published The Wasties in 2002. This time, instead of a precocious child making his way in an adult world, the protagonist is a middle-aged man slipping into an infantile state. English professor Michael "Caruso" Taylor is suffering from what he calls "the wasties," an undefined ailment that removes his power of speech, allows him to see deceased literary figures such as Walt Whitman and Ralph Ellison, and gradually leaves him utterly dependent on others. While those around him struggle to find a cure, Taylor himself sees his disease as a soul weariness, incapable of cure or solution. "But while we feel compassion for Michael, his failure to resist . . . is ultimately exasperating," according to Library Journal reviewer Joshua Cohen. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that although this "elegant, sometimes amusing" story has its clever moments, Reuss "burdens his reader with a dreariness of situation that continues—and continues." According to Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson, the novel "should appeal to sophisticated readers who like darkly humorous, cerebral fiction."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 1997, Nancy Pearl, review of Horace Afoot, p. 389; July, 1999, Veronica Scrol, review of Henry of Atlantic City, p. 1924; July, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Wasties,
p. 1823.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1997, review of Horace Afoot, p. 1412; July 1, 1999, review of Henry of Atlantic City, p. 994; June 15, 2002, review of The Wasties, p. 835.

Library Journal, October 1, 1997, Patrick Sullivan, review of Horace Afoot, p 125; July, 1999, Harold Augenbraum, review of Henry of Atlantic City,
p. 135; August, 2002, Joshua Cohen, review of The Wasties, p. 145.

New York Times Book Review, December 28, 1997, David Sacks, review of Horace Afoot, p. 5; November 28, 1999, Megan Harlan, review of Henry of Atlantic City, p. 20; August 26, 2001, Scott Veale, review of Henry of Atlantic City,
p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, September 15, 1997, review of Horace Afoot, p. 46; June 28, 1999, review of Henry of Atlantic City, p. 52; July 29, 2002, review of The Wasties, p. 53.

Washington Post Book World, October 12, 1997, Michael Dirda, "On the Edge of Oblivion," p. 5.*

ONLINE

Baltimore City Paper Online,http://www.citypaper.com/ (December 10, 2002), Heather Joslyn, review of The Wasties.

MacAdam Cage Publishing Web site,http://www.macadamcage.com/ (December 10, 2002), "Frederick Reuss."

Washingtonian Online,http://www.washingtonian.com/ (December 10, 2002), Laura Stickney, review of The Wasties.*

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