Feverland by Alex Lemon

Published by Milkweed Editions

Alex Lemon describes a life of sickness, near-death experiences, trauma, and impending fatherhood with a critical, reflective eye that jumps from shard to shard. One shard, a third person snapshot of various moments from his life, or some tidbits of contextual information showing the mind of an overthinker at their most vulnerable: when facts or stats cannot justify their behavior or the reality around them. They are left experiencing the fever dream that is life: where explanations are worth nothing.

Feverland is America, Feverland isn’t America. Lemon shows his vision of a Feverland as a 4th of July carnival in Clear Lake, Iowa: growing up somewhere empty where you just want people to like you but never will. Lemon did not just reach into his memory and pull out the selected fragments of details. Instead, he describes everything as though he stands right in front of it: not a recall, but a re-experiencing of these events. And while he is not afraid to take humorous pot shots at Former Vice President Dick Cheney, or Iowa Congressman Steve King, the true fearlessness lies in his turns onto himself. The essay “My Misogyny” stands out as an incredible piece of self-reflection, as Lemon grapples with how he treats and acts towards women after an exchange at a party.

Where Lemon takes his greatest strides are in his use of form. One essay is in the form of a mixtape, where each section is opened with another song from the list, and when you listen to those songs after reaching each section, a brilliant piece of intertextual comes full circle. “Migrants in Feverland” is a whole other beast, as each of the different essays have the same title and are equally scattered throughout the collection. The reprise of these essays both complicate and illuminate the fleeting idea of Feverland, and each one more critical of his past self than the last. With that critical eye, a knife-edge sharp control over his language, and a play on the form, Lemon has created a truly unique collection—Jakob Westpfahl