Reviews > Published on November 5th, 2015

Bookshots: 'Broken Sleep' by Bruce Bauman

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Broken Sleep

Who wrote it?

[Broken Sleep] is frequently both hilarious and sad, often at the same time. It is a novel of many layers, and it is quite fun to peel them back.

Bruce Bauman, senior editor of Black Clock.

Plot in a Box:

After being diagnosed with cancer, a history professor must untangle the many mysteries of his family in hopes of finding a marrow donor and finally understanding where he came from.

Invent a new title for this book:

Post-Modern Family

Read this if you liked:

Texas by James A. Michener

Meet the books lead(s):

Salome Savant, mad art genius of the modern age, and mother to Moses and Alchemy. Moses Teumer is a professor who is forced to unravel his unconventional ancestry in order to fight his cancer. Ricky McFinn, aka Ambitious Mindswallow, is the bad ass bassist for The Insatiables, an insanely popular rock band fronted by Alchemy Savant.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Elizabeth Banks would be stellar as Salome Savant. Richard Jenkins is a good fit for Moses Teumer, and I think Topher Grace would make an interesting Ricky McFinn.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

The New York art scene of the 1950’s sounds like a fascinating and beautiful place through Salome’s eyes. I certainly wish I could visit, if not live there.

What was your favorite sentence?

I’ve always distrusted e-mail, IMs, twits, p-mail. Any and all of the always-new cypherworld slango. These nanocommunications arrive without the demure or sexy dress code of an envelope, the personal saliva of a licked stamp, the revelations in words flowing from brain to hand to paper, with their swirls and curves of febrile emotions.

The Verdict:

Broken Sleep is a family saga woven together from (mostly) three narratives. There’s Salome’s autobiography, starting from the day she literally blew up the New York art scene and following her slow decline into insanity. There’s also a very literary third-person account of Moses Teumer struggling with cancer and the discovery of his secret family history. Finally, Ambitious Mindswallow tells tales of rock n’ roll adventure on the road with Alchemy Savant and the Insatiables. Two narrators are unreliable and one is relatively objective, an unnamed voice that speaks with authority on the life, thoughts and actions of Moses Teumer. Things you learn from one narrator appear very different as you view them through the alternating perspectives. In many ways, Broken Sleep is three separate novels that simply overlap. Though each voice is very distinct, the vignettes of these characters’ lives are arranged to compliment one another, so that even two moments occurring fifty years apart feel connected and relevant to each other. The book is frequently both hilarious and sad, often at the same time. It is a novel of many layers, and it is quite fun to peel them back.

About the author

BH Shepherd is a writer and a DJ from Texas. He graduated from Skidmore College in 2005 with degrees in English and Demonology after writing a thesis about Doctor Doom. A hardcore sci-fi geek, noir junkie and comic book prophet, BH Shepherd has spent a lot of time studying things that don’t exist.  He currently resides in Austin, where he is working on The Greatest Novel Ever.

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