It’s work, remembering.What a brilliant novel by an erudite, unique prose stylist. Sam Michel’s prose is truly the star here, weaving in and out of time, memory, dreams, fantasies, and regrets. With precision, Michel mixes extremely long clauses—at times reminiscent of Faulker—with short, terse sentences closer in timbre to Beckett and Hemingway. But Michel is a stylist all his own, moving from high registers to lower, dialect-driven segments, always dazzling and puzzling the reader, in control at every shift, turn, cliff edge, and shoreline.Strange Cowboy takes place over the course of a day, but it spans a lifetime:Here went a day, the hours passed, a distance crossed, a place I had returned to, yet I found myself no less confused, in sense, equally afraid, unchanged to myself, save for how I sounded to myself in speaking.The scope and breadth here are astounding, especially given how Michel’s prose meanders, pulses, and poetically and rhythmically attends to the active memory life of the narrator, Lincoln Dahl, who has been asked by his wife to recall the birthday party given to him on turning five so that he can relate this tale to his own son, Lincoln, on his fifth birthday:All this day, other days, for weeks I think before this day, months maybe, maybe years since I first saw this child and understood I was a father, I have been trying here to tell the boy this story, recount a day for him that was for me the first remembered and most enduring time through which I could sustain myself in the belief that all I saw was me and mine and all for me and could not be or ever once have been without me.What happens is that this request sends Lincoln into absorbing, lulling, manic, and yet at the same time lucid reflections on his relationships—with his mother, with his father, with his neighbors and a dog named Hope, with his wife, and, most importantly, with his son:Uninvited scenes, some lived, some not, lines from dialogues, spoken and unspoken, images and phrases fastened onto things before me, as if whatever thing I told or thought to tell was free of me...I saw myself in him, my son and I as one, careening, riding level ground through wilde descents of seeing, and reseeing, my son and I revived, reenacted, able to act, acting, reenabled.The distance that we all feel in our relationships with those we love (“Perhaps it was this simple, to desire, people wanted”), the desire to speak and yet feeling paralyzed and rooted in patterns not conducive to communicating our truest emotions (“I despaired that there might never come a day my son and I would each be hearing from a clear desire if I should call him sweetheart”), the regrets that cause pangs when looking back at and assessing our lives and the impact we had on others—all of these are here, in soaring and dazzling sentences—some of which rely heavily on rhythm and others that rely on other devices like alliteration (e.g., “the follow I foresaw in seeking out a view upon a snowbound summit”)—that make one wonder how long Michel worked at perfecting them or if his talent is such that he can write sentences like this one in his sleep:I grow lighter, rather, rise, emerge, an inertial heat appears to bear me up and outward, as the past succeeds itself, accelerates and passes in and out of me, colliding with itself, disintegrating as it comes and goes, resolving finally into unfamiliar fragments, unwedded to the words and names through which such sounds and flashes once covered and once enshrouded.Strange Cowboy is a book that everyone who has lived, loved, and lost should read. And, since that is all of us, I would urge you not to wait a moment longer: Michel is bound to receive well-deserved accolades for this novel in the coming weeks and months. Flat-out amazing.