3 stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre
Publisher: Atticus Books
So you think you've had a long, hard day? You ain't see nuthin' yet! I dare you to compare your worst against Cyrus "Duffy" Duffleman's in Fight For Your Long Day.
In Alex Kudera's first novel, which won the regional IPPY award for best fiction in the mid-atlantic region, he introduces us to the overweight, underpaid, unattractive adjunct english instructor. Unhappily working multiple jobs to make a respectable wage, Duffy has accepted part time teaching jobs at four urban Philadelphia colleges.
On his longest day, Duffy will fight to survive every curve ball the universe throws at him as he makes his way from one side of the city to the other, commuting from college to college. And boy, does it throw some doozies. From reporting a mentally unstable student who makes racial comments and cries rape in class, to witnessing a political assassination attempt, to nearly being attacked in the subway by a voter-registration man, Duffy manages to scrape by on the hopes of getting laid later that night by one of students. One thing is for sure, this poor guy has made an art of being in all the wrong places at all the wrong times.
Lonely and mostly introverted, Duffy spends most of his long day deep in thought, thoughts which range from deep and sentimental to shallow and perverted. He experiences guilt at not being able to help the homeless he sees in the streets and subways (and perhaps the fear of one day becoming one of them). He worries about his students' well-being. He mentally deconstructs the political and emotionally frustrating educational system he finds himself trapped in. But he also obsesses over teenage tits and ass and pines for sexual attention. He thinks about sex so often, in fact, that he finds himself sporting half-hard boners on and off all throughout the day.
(sorry, guys, but it's the truth. Tell me none of you have ever done that!)
He's one of the most likeable unlikable protagonist I've read in a long time. And that's a nod in Alex's direction. Not many authors can turn such a homely, self conscious guy into a hero.
As I read the book, I found myself mentally categorizing it as the bizarro version of Ian McEwan's Saturday. I hated Saturday. It bored me to sleep, literally. For two weeks I struggled to get to through the book. It was an incredibly boring, dry, uneventful day in the life of a well-to-do neurosurgeon. Fight For Your Long Day, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. It's about a struggling writing instructor who experiences more shit in one day than most people experience in a month!
While not an intense page-turner, it's the type of book that nestles back inside your brain and pokes you about a bit. You'll find yourself suddenly thinking about Duffy and his disgusting habits or his annoying ability to zone out and daydream when people are talking to him. You'll find yourself wondering how his long day is going to end. If you're like me, you may even create your own endings for the book - all of which will never come close to the actual ending.
The book oozes with middle-class stereotypes, racial profiling, and terroristic fears. Fight For Your Long Day is not going to be for everyone. At times, I was even wondering if it was going to be a good fit for me. But if you stick with it, I am sure you will find it rewarding. For me - it was sleeper. It snuck up on me when I least expected it to. I certainly appreciate it more now, after I've finished and pondered over it, than I did while I was reading it.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who fights, day in and day out, for what they have. This is a book for anyone working a job they sort of loathe, but desperately need. And it's a book for people who can find hope in the sorriest of places and situations.