In T. J. Beitelman’s John the Revelator, available now to be ordered online and at your favorite local new bookseller, abused runaway teenager John lives out a pseudo-Biblical triptych of events against a meta-industrial background. Rescued from scrabbling existence beneath a dumpster after being released from a juvenile hall, perhaps for murdering his father, by a domineering pimp named Karl who doubles as a convenience store clerk, John lives out a tragedy including the murder of two more and his own redemption by blood.
Beitelman mentions in the dedication how this book grew out of a story that appeared in the New Orleans Review called “Tiresias the Seer.” As is the case in the South and other places in America, the Biblical relevance throughout this book is blurry but undeniable and fundamental at the same time. It may, in fact, be far more conscious and precisely Biblically relevant than it seems to my untrained eyes but it hardly matters, if at all; this story is entrancing and captivating. Its tone reminds strongly of the adept command of American, particularly Southern, vernacular possessed by Wise Blood author Flannery O’Connor or Harry Crews, author of The Gospel Singer. As the Eternal Witness of unexpected ultimate relevance Mose says toward the end of John the Revelator, "I had a notion something hurt and scared was headed out here." Such universal human emotional tropics so skillfully accessed and played upon by this work of fiction trump any other concerns about the precision of its concordance. Leave that to the researchers. If you’re feeling hungry for the terror and mystery and mercy and fried memory murder of a Southern Gothic dance through Shadow Valley, let this reviewer be the first to point the way.
TJ Beitelman is the author of two books published by Black Lawrence Press, In order to form a more Perfect Union (2012) and John the Revelator (2013). He studied creative writing at Virginia Tech and at the University of Alabama, where he edited Black Warrior Review. His work has appeared in Quarterly West, Indiana Review, Colorado Review, and several other publications. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham, and has been nominated for a Puschart Prize. He lives in Birmingham and teaches writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.