Read excerpt here
PRESS & MEDIA -
Montague Yazzo was once an ascendant football star.
Now he’s a guy who’s moved back home, with a far quieter second act of his life to endure as he reflects on his past, his mother, his girlfriend, his uncle who’s disappeared, his community - as it expands, contracts and maddens with the times - the relationship between the ugly and the beautiful and, most basically, on the meaning of home itself.
In the vein of EL Doctorow’s fictitious-historical Ragtime, the self-exploratory picaresque novels of Saul Bellow and the nouveau roman, Sunnyside tells the four-act story of one Westchester County resident at the turn of the twenty-first century and establishes Houghteling as one of the foremost explorers of the American lyric.
"A maximalist masterpiece."
-- John King, Author of Guy Psycho and The Ziggurat of Shame and Host of The Drunken Odyssey Podcast
"Unlike almost any other contemporary fiction; Houghteling is equipped with a stunning verbal toolbelt."
-- Greg Gerke, Author of In the Suavity of the Rock and Editor of Socrates on the Beach
“In this winningly oblique, slender, and wise-hearted novel, Jack Houghteling puts his finger on febrilely metropolitan human nature as it expresses itself (cerebrally, athletically, familially) in the outer boroughs and in patinated suburbia--and he does so in fleet, uncannily vivid sentences that are summational masterstrokes. Jack Houghteling is a writer of dumbstriking originality and virtuosity, and Sunnyside, his second book, is a dazzlement.”
-- Garielle Lutz, Author of Divorcer and Stories in the Worst Way
“With this sophomore triumph, Jack Houghteling has further proven himself a master observer and beautiful craftsman. There’s tenderness and profundity on every page. While reading, I was reminded of Exley’s A Fans Notes. I felt a unique voice guiding me, gently, through several lives. What a pleasure.”
-- Gabriel Bump, Author of Everywhere You Don’t Belong and The New Naturals
"Through startlingly lush prose that gushes with vitality and freshness, Sunnyside is a bristling meditation on how our limitations and weaknesses can ravage our most cherished, deepest bonds. Houghteling packs so much beauty, hurt, and brilliance into this slender, placid novel, which burbles throughout with a violent and fierce undertone.”
-- Avner Landes, Author of Meiselman: The Lean Years
"Both urgent and elegiac, Sunnyside, in the parlance of its charismatic narrator Montague Yazzo, bubbles and cuts through memory’s intricate defensive schemes, finds funny, tragic, honest daylight on every page. Jack Houghteling owns a real voice – syntactically distinctive and intellectually mischievous – powered by a genuine quest to make us see and hear and feel from fresh, often astonishing angles. I’m very glad he’s here."
-- Sam Lipsyte, Author of The Ask and No One Left to Come Looking for You
"Houghteling’s prose is that of the acupuncturist, nimbly identifying the interconnecting pressure points of family, identity, place and history, before releasing them in resonant and finely pointed needles of language. After you finish reading you might be surprised to observe your Inner Homunculus done up like a voodoo doll, your own sensitivities bristling in the breeze. Sunnyside offers a moving portrait of a generation, moving in each sense of the word, portrait too. For despite its tableaux qualities Houghteling’s eye instructs us as to the range and depth of our vantage points as we zoom in and around the crystallising perception of its narrator. He embroiders a speed and lightness into his prose providing a bright musicality, via notational language, to these characters despite the unavoidable tragedies of life. The world is warmed by the glare of Houghteling’s language but it is the membranous width, so congenial, between life as it is lived and life as it is accepted, which generates Sunnyside’s specific illuminations."
-- Thomas Kendall, Author of The Autodidacts
"By paring away all the inessential baggage of telling, Jack has left us with not only his impressively sinuous linguistic virtuosity, but with the phenomenological gist of a heartfull, funny, complicated and distinctly American experience."
-- Harold Rogers, Author of Tropicalia
"Jack Houghteling’s Sunnyside is a constantly moving target of impressionistic memory, calling to mind the classic image of the great midcentury novelist, poring his life into every sentence across a hulking oaken desk bathed in sunlight. But where that familiar figure was so often recounting the National promise of the 50’s and 60’s, or the subsequent disillusionment of the 70’s and 80’s, Houghteling tracks the further decline of the American dream through to the years of my own adolescence – the late 90’s and 00’s – without ever abandoning the dense, erudite linguistics of his literary forebears. It’s strangely disorienting to read about the milestone world events of my youth – 9/11, Bush v. Gore, Columbine – as though they were ancient history – indeed, to me, they still feel like only yesterday – but that is, I think, part of the point in writing about them this way. In protagonist Montague Yazzo, a onetime high school football star now muddling through a complex family history amid a somewhat aimless adulthood, we see the ever-changing nature of that abstract concept Bob Dylan so perfectly encapsulated in a phrase: “the times.” Using the reliably cyclical, and enduring nature of sport – and it is no exaggeration to say that Houghteling writes about sport as beautifully as any author I’ve ever read – to ground his narrator’s glorious past against the increasingly unfamiliar world of his present (and all of ours’ futures), this compact-but-brawny novel stands as a testament to putting your head down and moving the chains. Even as it plows forward into the fresh terrors of the Trump Presidency and Covid 19, Sunnyside serves to remind us that, though time may be undefeated, history proves our resilience; that like all things, this too must pass."
-- Dave Fitzgerald, Author of Troll
"To read Jack Houghteling’s Sunnyside is to rediscover the plate tectonics of familial obligation upon which selves erect themselves. Contributing to that sense of astonishment is the quality of Houghteling’s prose. While sumptuous, it’s also as precise as an acupuncture needle. But what's perhaps most impressive about this meditative yet playful novel is its ability to zoom from the hyperlocal — a cluster of Bradford pear trees in Brooklyn's McCarren Park; bars with names like the Glenrowan and Doubledays; Catholic high school football fields and their canonical hash marks; the clash of bodies celebrated for their sweat; a mind churning over extemporaneous lyrics to Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” — to the cosmological, and all within the breadth of a single sentence."
-- Joe Milazzo, Author of Crepuscule W/ Nellie