Two Dollar Radio is one of the indie publishing houses we recently listed in our Indie Publishing Houses to Look Out For and for me, they’ve always been right up there at the top of the pack. Two Dollar Radio makes strong choices. They publish authors from across the board, all of whom share a common thread that’s difficult to articulate while rarely sharing any obvious commonality in the style department. From Scott McLanahan, to Joshua Mohr to Francis Levy, nothing Two Dollar Radio does treads old ground, yet it all makes sense as part of a greater whole. Nothing, by Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon is the author’s debut and the house’s latest offering.
Nothing is about a girl who leaves her boring, dead-end town for a different boring, dead-end, and ultimately, oppressive town. After hitchhiking to a party she comes into contact with another hitchhiker who’s searching for answers regarding his father’s mysterious death.
There’s imagery in this novel that is dark, uniquely modern. Therein lies one of its great strengths and the strongest reason to read it. From fake molly (and plenty of very real drugs), to a baby someone has ditched at a party, complete with an aggressively unchanged diaper, to odd, offhand remarks about what it means to be punk, Cauchon captures disaffected youth in way that feels genuine.
It’s not easy to write in the kind of voice that Cauchon regales us with in this novel. Here’s how it usually works: An author finishes college and writes a novel about his twenties that doesn’t get published. I asked Johnny Temple, publisher at Akashic Books about this in a recent interview and he offered some interesting insights. Whether it’s a question of youthful hubris being un-relatable or un-likeable, or whether writing an interesting navel-gazing novel is merely an impossible venture, we rarely see these novels work, and Cauchon succeeds where many have failed.
Her writing makes you feel the physical, environmental elements of her fictional world. Nothing is wrapped in smoke; from the residual smoke of California’s wildfires to the cigarette smoke that our narrator sucks into her lungs throughout the novel, it’s hard not to feel short of breath while reading. I hereby knight Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon as an Environmental Author. Whether it’s the confusion of a garbage head drug party or the cloying fluorescence of a seedy L.A. motel, you’ll not only recognize the truth in her scenes based on your own experience, you’ll feel hers.