THE COMFORTABLE MAN is a present-day A Tale of Two Cities with a narrative that pays no small homage to the works of sociologist Paul Fussell and utilizes an interconnecting Vanitas theme to help illustrate life and loss in the materialistic world.
The profound subjectivity of Comfortable is introduced in the first few chapters where the reader encounters a man named Derek Smiley who is preoccupied with situating his stockinged feet just so on his brand new, olive-green leather ottoman. By chapter fifteen, Derek hangs himself from the branch of a sweet gum tree in his own front yard, unable to live with the realization he figured in the very circumstances that led to the rape of his daughter. THE COMFORTABLE MAN follows not only Derek Smiley in his various misguided quests and interactions but also the daughter and estranged wife who share his world. The story concurrently follows the tall young man who perpetrates the rape, his over-worked mother and his three siblings in their far less comfortable realm. The characters live in a Midwestern city that is caught up in the furor of proposed legislation for major property tax overhaul. The threat of the property tax reassessments brings out the worst in a handful of its citizens, who join Derek’s militant anti-tax coalition to try and protect the entitlements they believe are theirs alone to enjoy.
With the demise of the middle class at hand, social NIMBYism is poised to haunt its greatest perpetrators, ordinary folk who rationalize their lack of empathy through the adoption of political platforms designed solely to manipulate middle class voter support of wealth protectionism. These citizens, victims of class angst, cling to the mistaken notion that their comfortable worlds should remain separate and protected from the worlds of those who have less. THE COMFORTABLE MAN attempts to illustrate the ironic fallout borne of this ignorance by juxtaposing the motives and actions of the fictitious coalition’s members with the option-poor circumstances of the less affluent characters. Chapter by chapter, their disparate worlds are brought closer together until they finally collide, causing horrific and ultimately redemptive events to disrupt and intertwine the characters’ supposedly insular lives.
THE COMFORTABLE MAN has been unpublished by the author