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Richard Brautigan

Astral Weeks: Welcome to weird America

Astral Weeks: Welcome to weird America

"My country is my family," writes Ricky Rice as he concludes his apologia pro vita sua -- a.k.a Victor LaValle's massive, heroically strange new novel, "Big Machine" (Spiegel & Grau: 378 pp., $25). "I like America." There's something both dissonant and grin-tuggingly candid in his plainspoken admission. Ricky, after all, is an ex-(more or less) heroin addict; a onetime cash mule; an itinerant janitor who's cleaned the toilets in several of upstate New York's less-than-glamorous train stations; a now-chaste former serial impregnator of women; and one of the few child escapees of the charismatic religious cult led by three (weird) sisters...

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