Beatty evokes the familiarities of genre, history and place while drafting them for a wild new context. In this regard, Cuyahoga is a breezy fable of empire, class, conquest and ecocide... Beatty revels in fabulizing a region he clearly knows and loves.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Pete Beatty’s very funny, rambunctious debut novel, Cuyahoga...could be read with pleasure in 2002, or 1950. Or 1837, when most of it is set. It’s a satire of tall tales, but not a distant, too-cool treatment. Beatty, a Cleveland-area native, deeply inhabits the tone and style of the form, paying sidelong homage to an essential American genre... A healthy society might stand to be more skeptical of the myth-making that creates such figures. But in the society we have, they endure, and Beatty wrings absurd and serious pleasure from them.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Entertaining, rambunctious, and touching... [Big Son is] the most extraordinary hero in Ohio’s history, a hero hitherto unknown and unsung (and, admittedly, fictional)... Cuyahoga is filled with memorable characters...Rough-hewn and ribald, uproarious and affecting, Beatty’s novel is a singular piece of work. Big Son is a frontier demigod in the mold of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and Davy Crockett, but far more poignantly drawn than any of them...The book’s dialogue is wonderfully idiosyncratic, its asides surprisingly insightful...A great read set in a great city, Cuyahoga is tragic and comic, hilarious and inventive — a 19th-century legend for 21st-century America,”
“A light-hearted parody of America’s founding mythologies,”
—The Wall Street Journal
"A hilarious and moving exploration of family, home, and fate ... you won't read anything else like it this year.”
—Buzzfeed, most anticipated
“It’s worth mentioning how much fun there is to be had with Cuyahoga, a lot of which will provoke out-loud laughter. The robust yarn’s patron spirits would include Twain and Charles (True Grit) Portis. Beatty has fashioned a true picaresque accomplishment,”
"A boisterous adventure."
—The Millions, most anticipated
“A vigorous American story of competition and heroism... a richly embroidered, most original tale."
—Akron Beacon Journal
“Cuyahoga brings long ago midwest back to life,”
“A rollicking, inventive, satirical twist on fables and tall tales...with an engrossing style of prose and humor that critics have compared to John Barth, Thomas Pynchon and Charles Portis.”
"Really good: boldly conceived, imaginatively written and wholly original... Following in the fantastical footsteps of novelists such as John Barth and Thomas Pynchon, Beatty uses his home state as a jumping-off point for a wild, far-fetched tale... Most satisfying is Beatty’s redolent prose.”
"An improbable, downright preposterous yarn ably spun and a great entertainment for a time in need of laughter.”
—Kirkus, starred review
A ribald, shaggy delight...Told in lively, poetic language, Cuyahoga feels at once brand new and as old as its namesake river,”
“Cuyahoga defies all modest description: It’s deliriously fun to read: nonstop laughs, pages that whiz by, and a style that seems to gather up and beautify an entire history of American bullshit artistry... Cuyahoga is ten feet tall if it's an inch, and it's a ramshackle joy from start to finish.”
—Brian Phillips, author of Impossible Owls
“Pete Beatty’s glorious Cuyahoga is a booming hymn of history, a praisesong both somber and funny...This unlikely, beautiful novel sings with a heart as big as its subject, and with sentences that demand your complete and total attention.” –Jessica Anthony, author of Enter the Aardvark
“A work that manages to simultaneously deconstruct the tall tale while igniting its evolution...Beatty expertly bridges the gap between larger than life exploits and the molecular moments that make up human existence and significance."
—Sergio de la Pava, author of A Naked Singularity and Lost Empress
“As comically genius as a Coen Brothers film; with narrative skill and voice as singular as Faulkner... Page by page, I felt like the top of my head had blown off: even the most seemingly thrown-away lines left me astonished at their efficiency and beauty.”
—Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society
“...Cuyahoga is a steroidal frontier romp of whiskey and vernacular, a hundred boisterous souls fumbling to make their city a whole, and one humongous romance. In his rousing debut, Beatty has handed Cleveland a tall tale equal to its own ragged, enormous truth.”
—David Giffels, author of Barnstorming Ohio: To Understand America
“A great big American bouncy castle of a book—strange, exhilarating, hilarious and alive—and every sentence so perfect! An absolute delight.”
—Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying
“...Cuyahoga is a singular feat of language and energized inventive storytelling. In Big Son, I met a mythic American hero, and in his brother Meed, a gifted, indelible raconteur... This marvelous tragicomic tale impressed upon my head and heart—twin joys.”
—Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math and The Residue Years
Beatty’s inspired debut is an American tall tale in the 19th-century oral tradition. Living legend Big Son has wrestled forests and rivers into submission. But in Ohio City in 1837, he meets his greatest challenge to date when his true love, Cloe Inches, refuses to be his bride until he proves himself as a provider. He finds work building a bridge across the Cuyahoga River that will connect Cleveland with its rival, Ohio City. But after the bridge collapses, so, too, do Big Son’s fortunes. It is up to his brother, Medium Son, called Meed, to restore his reputation by creating an almanac of Big Son’s legendary feats. Meed, however, covets Cloe and is secretly jealous of the attention his older brother receives. Throw in a dandyish rival for Cloe’s affection and a gunpowder-toting demonstrator, and the stage is set for the biggest Big Son tale of all time. Narrated by Meed in a colloquial voice (about Big: “I do believe I could make a decent merchant for him as a foremost spirit of the times”), Beatty’s novel has echoes of Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown and Hugh Nissenson’s The Tree of Life, employing language that thrusts the reader fully into the tumult of life on the American frontier. Like Big Son himself, this novel is an American original. (Oct.)
A local hero in 1830s Ohio City, husky, handsome Big Son heads to rival Cleveland to make his fortune so that he can marry the (admittedly somewhat reluctant) Cloe. The results, as narrated by Medium Son, are hilarious. A debut with an impressive 75,000-copy first printing.
A rambling shaggy dog tale of the frontier that, 200-odd years ago, lay just across the Appalachians.
In the winter of 1828, chronicles native son Beatty, Cleveland lay on the eastern shore of the Cuyahoga River while on the bluff opposite lay the wild territory called Ohio City. Its champion is a Paul Bunyan–esque character called Big Son, “his shoulders wide as ox yokes,” who “drank a barrel of whiskey and belched fire….Ate a thousand pan cakes and asked for seconds. Drained swamps and cut roads etc. More feats than I have got numbers to count up.” So relates his younger brother, Medium Son, who lives in Big’s shadow and recounts his many adventures and misadventures while living some of his own, unfolding in a narrative reminiscent of Thomas Berger’s Little Big Manand Charles Portis’ The Dog of the South, both parodic and earnest. The other residents of Ohio City are legendary in their own rights, including grizzled Revolutionary War veterans, swaggerers and swindlers, rival titans, and a certain John Appleseed Chapman, who “dressed in such rags that you could see through to his privates” and is exceedingly careless of both personal hygiene and ordinary decency. Meed, as the younger brother is known, records his brother’s Herculean deeds in every weather—“He somehow took sick with the hog cholera himself and puked enough to drown a horse,” he relates, which he allows is a lesser feat than the usual boulder-tossing and element-wrassling that fills his pages. The lighthearted tale takes a serious turn when Big builds a messy bridge across a river that, says Meed, “is mostly water with some dirt and fishes mixed in,” a bridge that lets settlers swarm like fleas on the far shore and sets a plot in motion to undo Big’s creation, adding mayhem to a narrative that constantly threatens to spin out of control but that Beatty guides to a satisfying, surprising end.
An improbable, downright preposterous yarn ably spun and a great entertainment for a time in need of laughter.