The Buzzing

"Knipfel knows how to pull a reader into his orbit. His writing has a hard-boiled magnetism."

-The New York Times                                        Read full review

"A wonderfully zany and grim novel"

-The Review of Contemporary Fiction

"Knipfel is vying for the a seat at the fiction table previously held by writers such as Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller."


"..there are moments when you actually think Baragon might be onto something."

-LA Weekly

"In a psychedelic ode to paranoia, New York style, Knipfel has the reader follow "kook beat" journalist Roscoe Barragon as he researches the story that will earn either a Pulitzer Prize or a rubber room at Bellevue. Noirish characters Barragon and his friends, NY morgue pathologist Emily and trash sf filmmaker Eel, become caught up in Barragon's pursuit of a conspiracy involving whales, earthquakes, Japanese fishing boats, nuclear submarines under the control of vacationing golfers, a lost mythical sea colony akin to Atlantis, and Godzilla. If it seems like a challenge to bring this conglomerate of subjects together, Knipfel meets it head on and ties up all the loose ends at the end of his first novel. The story takes a while to build as the author carefully lays out all the unusual puzzle pieces for Barragon and the reader to discover. Once the pieces start falling together, the plot moves quickly to the end, taking the reader on as harrowing a ride as the roller coaster at Coney Island."


The Buzzing

Vintage Contemporaries, 2003


The story of an aging, bitter and drunken New York newspaperman obsessed with Japanese monster movies. While working the Kook Beat for a third-rate daily, he stumbles upon a massive conspiracy involving a falling satellite, a string of strange earthquakes, inexplicable whale behavior, radioactive corpses, plumbing thefts, an undersea civilization, New York real estate, and, of course, Godzilla.




After finishing the third memoir but before it was published, I figured I’d grown pretty sick of writing about myself and thought I’d like to try my hand at a novel. So I called my publisher at the time and bounced the idea off him. He thought it was a fine idea and in fact thought it might be good to publish a novel before the third memoir just to break things up a bit. “So when can you get it to me?” he asked.

 Now, the problem here was that I hadn’t really thought things through. In fact I hadn’t got much beyond thinking, “Y’know, I’d kinda like to write a novel.” So I panicked, took another week off work, and sat down at the computer with three thoughts in mind. No, four thoughts. I knew who the protagonist was. I knew how the book would begin, I knew how it would end, and I knew one thing that took place in the middle. So my job, simply enough, was to connect the dots. Fortunately the story took care of itself.

 After I finished (this was in early 2001) and turned it into my publisher, he rejected it, explaining that they didn’t publish science fiction. I tried explaining that it was okay, since this wasn’t science fiction, but he didn’t buy it. So I got myself an agent and she started shopping it around. Then came 9/11 and nobody wanted to do anything for a couple years. Finally Vintage came along.

 Here’s another little bit of trivia. The book’s original title was “A Cold Colossal Buzzing,” a line taken from a James Thirber essay. My editor thought that was too long and too hard to say, so we went about looking for a new title. I have lists of dozens upon dozens of increasingly awful  alternatives. For a few weeks there the book was actually going to be called “Zombie Hootenanny” until at the last minute we returned to my original idea and trimmed it down to fundamentals.


The soundtrack for this one, unsurprisingly, was provided by a collection of Akira Ifukuve’s soundtracks for the Godzilla films.





"The Balzac of the bin is at it again. With his paranoid Valentine to New York... Mr. Knipfel now brings to fiction the welcome gifts which distinguished his previous books--the authenticity, the narrative exuberance, the integrity of his cheerfully undeluded American voice."

-Thomas Pynchon



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