A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

  • by Ken Kalfus
  • Narrated by James Boles
  • 8 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Joyce and Marshall Harriman are in the midst of a contentious divorce, but still sharing a cramped, over-mortgaged Brooklyn apartment with their two children. On the morning of September 11, Joyce departs for Newark to catch a flight to San Francisco, and Marshall, after dropping the kids at daycare, heads for his office in the World Trade Center. She misses her flight and he's late for work, but on that grim day, in a devastated city, among millions seized by fear and grief, each thinks the other is dead, and each is secretly, shamefully, gloriously happy. As their bitter divorce is further complicated by anthrax scares, suicide bombs, foreign wars, and the stock-market collapse, they suffer, in ways unexpectedly personal and increasingly ludicrous, the many strange ravages of our time.
In this astonishing black comedy, Kalfus suggests how our nation's public calamities have encroached upon our most private illusions.


What the Critics Say

2006 National Book Award Finalist
"My inner idealist hopes Kalfus' novel joins the ranks of Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 on the required reading lists." (Philadelphia Magazine)
"Kalfus' new novel [is] like a fever dream of recent events....Through the interbleeding of public and private story lines and his lampooning approach, Kalfus [is] freeing the way we think about September 11....If hyperbole can be weaponized anywhere in literature, it is here." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

not funny

This book is classed as a black comedy due to laziness in the book-blurb industry--a vestigial reference to the tragedy-tragicomedy-comedy spectrum that no longer scans for today's book-jacket shopper.

Any book with unique or singular situations that make you uncomfortable becomes a black comedy, and 'hilarious' ends up in its reviews and blurbs.

Does it find its audience? Personally I shop in this genre for a laugh. Are there readers who look here for dark, depressing books that will reinforce their sense that life is hard and useless? I doubt it.

I am writing this not to knock the book, but to provide fair warning to black-comedy fans. There are far too many books lumped into the black comedy genre, that are not funny at all, but with more care in promotion, would find a willing and appreciative audience. This is such a book.

This is a masterful book for people who enjoy the intake of profoundly numbing grief and disappointment in your fellow-man. Or, if you are able to look beyond the pain and go on to have a nice day, this book will satisfy.

The book evokes the communal sense of loss and bewilderment during the post-9/11 fallout, the futility of going through the motions to make life hum along smoothly. The paralyzing realization that one's own life is minuscule, and the perverse reaction: to mess things up even worse.

People who don't rally, don't set an example of heroism. People who responded to 9/11 like the rest of us: adrift, depressed, without purpose, feeling guilty for keeping on with their petty concerns and grudges, but going on all the same.
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- Jodee

Divorce: 9/11 Style

Kalfus weaves a darkly hilarious tale of a dying marriage set post 9/11 against the backdrop of Ground Zero. I enjoyed the deliberate reading by James Boles, which sometimes added to the author's wry humor. The story of Marshall and Joyce's divorce strives for analogy, to depict a microcosm of the paranoid, intolerant, inept, and violent new order of the reawoken world. In many ways it succeeds, and in one scene in which a loosey-goosey house party morphs into an eerily creepy parody evocative of the terrible high jinks uncovered at Abu Graib Prison, it is jarringly affective. I recommend this audio book to any fans of say George Saunders, T. C. Boyle, et. al., who enjoy a hearty laugh at the expense of some serious material.
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- Michael Jones "Book Jones"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-15-2007
  • Publisher: Audio Evolution