Author: Brian Celio
Description: “Catapult Soul” is a remarkable work of heart and soul. The protagonist is Vincent “V” Vallano, a sarcastic but lovable outcast. The story begins with V giving a short historical account of Pittsburgh and the steel industry, humorously detailing how a poor Pittsburgher invented the steel-making process but because of bankruptcy was bought out by a wealthy Englishman. Then it jumps to V’s home life. His mother is a shy immigrant from Sicily and his father is a hateful steel miller. At the beginning of the story, it’s implied that V is around 17 because he’s “getting things ready” and by the third chapter he’s off to a private college in Maryland where he soon falls in love with Ivy Pineda. She might be the only sane person in the story, meaning she doesn’t have much baggage, she’s pretty levelheaded, and lives a typical suburban life. In V’s eyes, she’s an innocent sweetheart whose beauty is unmatched, which means he needs to”power up” on her hair forever because it has a magical taste he can’t resist (this tongue-in-cheek phenomenon is better illustrated by him). However, he starts things off on the wrong foot because after finally chewing on her hair all night in an orchard, he ends up breaking his leg at party, semi-OD’ing on painkillers, and blowing her off for a week. Light problems compared to what follows…
V’s best friend also decides to move down to Maryland to be with Ivy’s best friend. They become addicted to heroin, and V is left trying to save his best friend. One by one, bigger problems unfold, such as the events of 9/11, V accumulating school loans and credit card debt, the potential foreclosure of his childhood home, and his calling to become an artist and to do it now. What’s remarkable about “Catapult Soul” is that you experience the beauty of language in many different styles. The dialogue is spot-on, though it took some time to adjust to it. There’s literally thousands of wordplays and allusions, which reminded me of Joyce but without putting a burden on the story. There’s also narrative tricks and symbols that call the entire story into question, which begins on the title page and ends on the back cover. Truth be told, it’s not until the second half of the book that things break free from your standard coming-of-age story. Chapter 22 is probably the most notable aspect of the work when V goes on a bombastic tear, fighting against the invisible evils he sees plaguing society. This is also where you get acquainted with the “real” V and the love story (the main focus of Part I and II) breaks open into a deluge of new perspectives. Despite having many postmodern features, the story blatantly rejects being called postmodern. V insists and even demonstrates how he’s “real” and how this book is not a postmodern fictional work but an autobiographical work struggling to “catch up” to his present state, which, for me, turned it into a satire on both postmodernism and tortured artist stories. Hands down one of the most rewarding books I’ve read. Funny, experimental, classical, challenging, and emotional all in one.
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