Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Andrew Altschul


Alienation, Consumerism, Iraq War, Punk Rock, Spanish Civil War, Vigilantism

Subject Areas

American Literature


Jesse is in his early twenties and stuck in Salinas, California. He works at Lenscrafters, making glasses, making decent money and he is comfortable. The novel opens when Jesse’s high school friend, Ben, is visiting from Los Angeles, where he is a screenwriter. The two go to a party for another old acquaintance, Ian, who has just returned from a tour in Iraq. Their encounter with Ian sets the rest of the novel in motion. They are exposed to something big in the world (the machinery of a war that up to that point had been nothing more than words in magazines and pictures in newspapers). The two, who feel unaccomplished, decide that they want to do big things--important things. They decide to combat crime in Salinas, to become vigilantes, like Marvel Comics' The Punisher. They decide to do this despite the fact that neither of them can think of a time that he has seen or met a real criminal.

Jesse’s paternal grandparents are from Spain, and their story is told from a limited third-person perspective. This part of the novel is about the experiences of Jesse’s grandparents during the Spanish Civil War, about being Nationalists behind Republican lines, and about being on the wrong side of a war. Parallels are drawn between Franco’s war in Spain and the American war in Iraq.

Ultimately, this novel is a coming-of-age story that explores themes of alienation, disenfranchisement, helplessness, and perspective.