In his latest work of fiction, Locust House, San Diego-born author Adam Gnade writes about his homeland in the tradition of regionalists like Sherman Alexie, William Faulkner, and Willa Cather. Gnade’s chunk of Southern California is a place of border clash, of a glimpse of stormy sea from a top coastal hills or rollercoasters, of ratty beach apartments and punk shows.
Locust House is the latest in Gnade’s ongoing life-project, a series of books and “talking songs” that share characters and continue story-lines in an attempt to document a personal history of America. In its pages Gnade borrows the classic structure of teen films like American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused to tell the story of one night in the life of a group of young Americans.
Here we see Gnade’s characters en route to (and at, and after) a house show featuring their favorite band, The Locust. We see the strain of contemporary American life on those who want it the least. We are given a wide view of lives in transition, of youth on the wane, of candidly depicted sex and cathartic bloodletting, of life in the vigorous prime before the pains of adulthood set in.
We’re also shown a lush, encyclopedic portrait of a place, of seashore and streets, of bedroom and back alley. It is a story that asks, “What does it mean to hold fast to your dreams, ethics, and beliefs while the whole world tries to tame you?” Locust House is a time capsule and a warning, a call-to-arms and, at its very heart, a love-letter.
“Locust House is so dense, so angry, and so honest, and so everything that we need today to survive in the world. Adam Gnade is the kind of talent who will remind you how necessary it is to stay human, stay empathetic, stay true, stay punk. For that, I thank him.” –Szilvia Molnar, author of Soft Split
“Locust House is a love letter to a time: San Diego, the early 2000s, the moment in youth right before cynicism slips in. Like any true love letter, it accounts not just beauty and tenderness, but the dirty repercussions of love–the betrayals, the pain, the deaths.” –Juliet Escoria, author of Black Cloud
“Adam Gnade’s Locust House is a vast and eloquent document only he could tell. Full of life, loss, and a one of a kind ‘beyond’ that takes the reader through dimensions of humanity, sound and vision encapsulated in a tiny window of time never to be repeated again. A testament to Southern California’s ‘glory days’ of recklessness, abandon, and blistering underground music, Locust House burned in my hands until the end with fresh, unbridled joy.” Eric Wood of Bastard Noise
Locust House reads like James Joyce and E. Annie Proulx had a lovechild and dropped him into the punk scene of early ‘00s San Diego, and then 15 years later he wrote a novella. Adam Gnade has managed to pack more energy, story, and feeling into this novella than you will find in most full-length novels. It’s as though he’s written the literary equivalent of the 45-second songs he mentions in the book. It’ll fuck you up like the best music, and like the best music, it’ll haunt you long after you read the final sentence.” –Jessie Lynn McMains, author What We Talk About When We Talk About Punk, Poet Laureate of Racine, Wiscosin
“There’s something so totally fucking intimate about a well-written book about incendiary events that the words just blow an IMAX experience away as a meaningless Hollywood effect. You’re not just viewing from a distance–you’re fucking in it, in it, in it. Adam recalls in one part the first time music did it for him, maaan, thanks for reminding me about how words can do it for me. Got lost in it, all of it!” -Martin Atkins of Ministry, P.I.L.
“Locust House makes me want to call up all of my teenage punk friends to ask if they ever still listen to those same CDs. Locust House confirms that I already know the answer. I feel nostalgic. I feel hopeful, I felt everything at once when I read the words, ‘I wasn’t cool but I was free.'” –Lucy K. Shaw, author of The Motion, co-editor of the Shabby Dollhouse Reader
“We work so hard at trying to exist, subconsciously looking at each other to find a cool belief to identify with. Survival without a solid foundation is brutal. I envy this particular S.D. crew coming together through the most extreme music/chaos–total excitement, totally identified. I really wish I’d gone to the Locust House with the Blood Brothers, I remember being invited to go. Man … ” -Ross Robinson, music producer of Head Wound City, The Cure, Blood Brothers, and others
“Blink and it’s over. Hits like a plauge of locusts. Windmilling unabashedly between the extremes of confidence, spiraling doubt, blood, fire, loneliness, siblinghood, and self-righteousness; grandiose and earnest but too cool to be in the room and desperate to belong to something better at the same time. Wait, was I supposed to be talking about the bands or the book?” Julia Eff, author of Every Thug is a Lady: Adventures Without Gender
“Locust House could only have been written by someone who lived firsthand the ethos of the San Diego punk movement, someone who sweated and bled in the house party basements. Adam Gnade writes with the kind of passion and empathy that most writers take decades to achieve. His writing is somehow both youthful and wise, funny and sad. He tells stories about San Diego with the kind of love and nuance that only a native could have. His writing will lift you up then punch you in the gut, and you’ll thank him for it.” –Bart Schaneman, author of Someplace Else