Author reading preview: D. Foy examines home, identity and family in devastating debut

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From the March 27, 2014 edition

D. Foy’s debut novel “Made to Break” has been in and out of so many drawers since its first words were written in 1998 that you can see how, perhaps, that sense of displacement has bled into the book itself over the years.

The group of friends who populate “Made to Break,” which was published by locals Two Dollar Radio, are similarly adrift.

“None of these people have any sense of home because none of them have any strong sense of family,” Foy said during a recent phone interview. “They’re unmoored, and that’s part of the reason they’ve made their own twisted family; they’ve been together years and years despite their outward loathing of one another.”

Since Feb. 26, Foy has also lived the life of a sojourner, crafting a 30-city, largely DIY book tour through sheer hustle. The tour swings through Columbus Thursday with a reading at Skylab Gallery.

“I have been doing this hustle since I knew [Two Dollar Radio] acquired the book and I knew it was going to come into the world,” said the Brooklyn resident, who had scrapped two other “horrible, horrible” books prior to starting this one. “[But] it’s nice to be able to talk about it at last. So far it’s gotten some good response. That’s encouraging and maybe vindicating in the sense … that I was actually doing something that was worthy.”

The novel’s characters are involved in various sorts of hustles of their own throughout this anti-coming-of-age tale. They try on numerous identities, but never really blossom into them as much as wilt.

The threats that face the group of friends who find themselves trapped in a Lake Tahoe cabin on New Year’s Eve are all internal. Their enemies are themselves; their own bitter, calloused egos and long-simmering slights stir the pot of angst that bubbles over throughout.

But this isn’t a Debbie Downer of a debut. Foy has instead crafted a bustling, colorful tale that aims to get at what keeps a group of longtime friends together, particularly when they might not really like each other — or themselves.

Think “Twelve Angry Men” for the Hunter S. Thompson set. Everyone’s on trial, but the reckoning comes through drugs, alcohol and violence.

Foy calls it gutter opera, this blend of street and high-brow that populates “Made to Break.” Others have called it experimental fiction, but that view seems shortsighted. Foy’s not attempting to be different for its own sake, but rather uses stylistic shifts and tones and genre-mashing to illuminate the novel’s themes.

So even if “Made to Break” feels, at times, uneven or jarring, it was done with a particular purpose in mind.

“I use a lot of these tropes to get at these various aspects of the world that interest me,” he said. “I’m really interested in the notion of what appears to be and what is, the difference between truth and falsehood and allusion and reality, and the shifting nature of people and people’s personalities and the face they show in one context and the face they show in another.”

Photo courtesy of Snorri Sturluson