The Millions

Narrative Is Back: On Rebekah Frumkin’s ‘The Comedown’

In the frontmatter of Rebekah Frumkin’s debut novel, The Comedown, the reader is presented with two genealogy charts: one for the Marshalls, and one for the Bloom-Mittwochs. These are wild, unpruned, tangled family trees—more than a few names appear on both. Frumkin sets herself the task of filling in the stories behind these names, and in the more than 300 pages that follow, she does precisely that.

tracks the Marshalls, who are black, and the Bloom-Mittwochs, who are white and Jewish, over multiple generations. The two families are tied to one another by a briefcase full of money, which is to say, a plot device. When a hit job goes awry, a payment to the drug dealer Reggie Marshall ends up in the possession of one of his customers, Leland Bloom-Mittwoch Sr. His and Reggie’s descendants spend much of the novel chasing after it. “A briefcase,” one character says. “That’s symbolic. Like in a dream.” The briefcase is a , an artificial goal that gives the story purpose. But, breaking with authors like , for whom writing conventional fiction feels “fake and embarrassing,” or , who wrote in his My Struggle series that “the thought of a fabricated character in a fabricated plot made me feel nauseous,” Frumkin isn’t ashamed to milk her MacGuffin for all its worth. She knows that narrative is artifice, but she also knows it’s

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Millions

The Millions10 min read
Writing Back to Guy and Harriet Pringle
I met Guy and Harriet Pringle in the winter of 1987. In those days, Turkish public television had a rather ingenious arrangement with public radio; they would show the dubbed series, and the radio would play the original soundtrack. I do not remember
The Millions10 min read
Can You Just Trust That We’re Human: The Millions Interviews Natalia Sylvester
“They were married on the Day of the Dead, el Día de los Muertos, which no one gave much thought to in all the months of planning, until the bride’s deceased father-in-law showed up in the car following the ceremony.” So begins Natalia Sylvester’s ne
The Millions7 min read
Adults Beware: On the Wisdom of the Goosebumps Books
R.L. Stine’s horror adventures for kids, Goosebumps, are apparently the second best selling book series in history, right behind the exploits of the world’s most famous wizard. As a lifelong Goosebumps fan, I find this endlessly puzzling. It is