Vaguely disaffected, bored and seemingly always searching for something that may not be there, such a character can be a fascinating plaything for an author: think of the commentary, the metaphors, the zinger dialogue.
But this is the real world. And listless people are often just that: listless.
A sequel to last year’s Desperate, which I was not aware of when I picked up this book, what we get in Agitation is a character (referred to only as V) who has fallen between the cracks of family, society and finances. Sitting in a crappy apartment in Indiana, ruminating on his life, his fetishes and his lack of options, the reader has no choice but to go with him.
Alexandrine Ogundimu has an ability to sum up her character’s quirks in monologues that can appear quite mundane to the average reader but revel a greater malaise when examined. Take this as an example:
The other reason he didn’t have a job was because V was convinced he would contemplate suicide if forced back into the retail world…he’d chosen to take out several new credit cards…to fund his lifestyle of decadence, which mostly revolved around purchasing restaurant food…and when he went out he would dump some cash into cocaine . . .
There’s quite a bit of tension in that quote, due to the extremities of the two positions (one guessed, but informed by experience and the other daily life) and it is a great example of V’s character: trying to live to excess knowing that the potential for what could be is far worse.
V is also a character whose boundaries around sexuality, gender and social identity are very much blurred. He cops off with men and violently rejects the notion that he might be gay. He has a variety of sex toys (one shaped like a woman) for which he feels decreasing enthusiasm. He considers the various strains of trans narratives in America (noting the major difference between black and white trans people).
Very much a 21st century boy.
The end result is a book that forces you to see beyond the seemingly waster nature of V and discover someone who is a product of a listless, apathetic culture trying to make a mark. It’ll not appeal to everyone but, for those it does appeal to, V will linger long in the memory.
Not bad going.
Alexandrine Ogundimu, 2022, Agitation. Amphetamine Sulphate. ISBN-13: 978-1953559050.
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.