There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Many of the stories in Davy Rothbart’s The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas call to mind films of early aviation as viewed through the eyes of a depressive: It’s fascinating to watch the unwieldy, winged mechanisms that crumble just after liftoff, but it’s not about the wonder of attempting flight as much as the shattering crash. Rothbart’s characters are weekend warriors whose weekends have somehow become seven days long: The would-be Kerouac of the collection’s title story is entangled with a rural sheriff and estranged from his girlfriend while he nurses his ailing grandfather. The unnamed narrator of “Elena,” who finds himself conning truckers into the clutches of bandits and playing soccer with the children of shantytown hookers, has a working-class family in Buffalo. Rothbart’s literate, NPR-primed readers will both identify with the protagonists and separate themselves from them: His bruised, beaten boys could be MFA candidates who got in over their heads, and they’re not waving, but drowning. Give yourself over to the stories, and you’ll drown, too. Only the Lone Surfer offers a sort of redemption: No matter that everyone loses faith that the dirt-poor farm kid with the dying sister will ever ride his surfboard off his backyard hammock and onto a real ocean. You’ll want to believe, need to believe, that he’ll catch that perfect wave somehow. Rothbartpictured (right) with Devon Sproule (center) and brother Peter Rothbart (left) of Poem Adeptreads with musical accompaniment by Devon Sproule and Poem Adept at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 28 (see City List for other dates), at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Pamela Murray Winters)