Reviews > Published on October 1st, 2015

Bookshots: ‘The New and Improved Romie Futch’ By Julia Elliott

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


The New and Improved Romie Futch

Who Wrote It?

A wildly inventive first novel which not only contains some of the most genuinely funny scenes I’ve read in recent memory, but also contains some truly evocative, poetic prose that will make word nerds swoon.

Award-winning short story writer and professor, Julia Elliott.

Plot in a Box:

Romie Futch is an alcoholic, pill popping, metal head who operates a failing taxidermy business and is hung up on his ex-wife and his high school glory days. Broke and broken hearted, Romie answers an ad in the local newspaper to participate in a little medical testing to improve his mental capacity and hilarity and mental clarity ensues.

Invent a new title:


Read this if you liked:

Pretty much anything by Kurt Vonnegut, Jerry Stahl, and Chuck Palahniuk.

Meet the book's lead:

Romie Futch: Yeah, he’s that buddy of yours who never moved away from home after high school and who never shuts the fuck up about high school because he’s done jack and shit with his life.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Magnolia era William H. Macy.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

South Carolina? I’ve heard nice things. So, yeah, why not?

What was your favorite sentence/passage?

Our bodies brimmed with the sap of adolescence, the same stuff that dripped from pimples and shot through veins to bring on sudden fits of angst. Sometimes we seemed helpless as coupling rabbits, guided by pheromones and neurochemicals, robotically seeking that exquisite brain burst of oxytocin, dopamine, and adrenaline that obliterates the universe for a few seconds, or makes you one with the universe as you behold the entire whirling cosmos in that sweet warbling vortex that blooms from a pesky genital itch.

The Verdict:

Quick show of hands: How many of you loved Flowers For Algernon?

Yeah, I mean, how can you not love Daniel Keyes Hugo and Nebula award winning novel? It’s a classic and probably one of the few novels that you had to read in high school that you actually enjoyed. Remember tearing up a little when Charlie starts to regress? Oh my god, I turned into Niagara Falls when that shit started happening!

Okay, now that we’ve skipped down memory lane reminiscing about good old Charlie Gordon, my next question for you is this: Do you think Flowers For Algernon would have been better if Charlie was a middle-age metal head taxidermist with a Xanax addiction and an unhealthy obsession with his ex-wife?

By the way, you shouldn’t even have to think about that one, because your answer should just be:  Yes, it would’ve been awesome if Charlie was a mullet wearing head banger who’s so mired in the past that he’s emotionally retarded himself from experiencing anything new or different for the last 40 some odd years of his life.

I’m going to go ahead and apologize to Julia Elliott for making the comparison between Flowers For Algernon and The New and Improved Romie Futch, because they’re radically different novels that just so happen to share a thematic thread. In fact, as far as voice is concerned, The New and Improved Romie Futch has more in common with the works of Kurt Vonnegut and Katherine Dunn than it does with transformative science fiction novels such as Flowers For Algernon and The Speed Of Dark By Elizabeth Moon.

The long and the short of it is that The New and Improved Romie Futch is an extremely funny, poignant novel about what happens to us if we cling to the past and don’t allow ourselves to emotionally move forward, and like the best satirical novels, it holds up a mirror to our lives and makes the reader take a good long look at themselves. Because on one level or another, we’re all a little stuck in the past, either because we liked ourselves more at a certain age, or because of a hurt that’s never really healed properly.

The New and Improved Romie Futch is a wildly inventive first novel which not only contains some of the most genuinely funny scenes I’ve read in recent memory, but also contains some truly evocative, poetic prose that will make word nerds swoon when they read it. Simply put, The New and Improved Romie Futch easily ranks as one of my favorite reads of 2015, and I guarantee you’ll read this exceptional debut novel in one sitting.

About the author

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer whose short fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, and interviews have been widely published both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collection The Chaos We Know (SnubNose Press)and Co-Editor of the anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift. He lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.

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