War of the Encyclopaedists

Gavin Kovite, who led an infantry platoon in Baghdad during the Iraq War, and Christopher Robinson, a Yale Younger Poets prize finalist, send their two young protagonists on a turbulent existential journey through a year and a half of the early 2000s in their first novel, War of the Encyclopaedists.

Mickey Montauk and his best friend, Halifax Corderoy, imbibe together at an Encyclopaedists' party--one in a series of ironic faux art shows combined with booze-ups at Montauk's house--in Seattle the summer of 2004, assuming that they both will soon move to Boston for grad school. Montauk, however, learns that his National Guard unit is mobilizing and shipping out to Iraq. Meanwhile, Corderoy rudely breaks up with his artistic, recently evicted girlfriend, Mani.

Corderoy goes to Harvard alone, quickly finding his cynical hipster act scores no points with classmates or professors. His roommate, Tricia, obsesses over the possibility of going to Baghdad as an intern for an unembedded journalist. Montauk goes overseas to experience both the horror and the camaraderie of modern warfare, and the two best friends soon grow apart, staying loosely in touch by editing a Wikipedia article about their erstwhile personas, the Encyclopaedists.

The 20somethings' search for meaning in a time of turmoil can resonate with readers of any generation but especially with those who came of age during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Bittersweet but ultimately redemptive, the Encyclopaedists' adventures in growing up, romantic failures and gaining perspective may remind readers of the pains and possibilities that are encountered when one makes a way in the world. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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