By Rachel Coker
n The Lobster Kings, Alexi Zentner weaves a story that feels at once perfectly realistic and like a legend borrowed from another era. The novel, published this month by W.W. Norton, arrives just three years after Zentner’s critically acclaimed debut, Touch.
Zentner, an assistant professor of English who joined Binghamton University’s faculty in 2013, describes his style as mythical realism, an idea related to (but separate from) the tradition of magical realism established in Central and South America.
“I try to work the myth through the fabric of the entire story,” he says. “I’m not interested in using myth or magic as a showy parlor trick. I hope what I’m doing is something new and different.”
The Lobster Kings is new and different on a number of levels. The novel, which pays homage to Shakespeare’s King Lear, centers on the relationship between an aging man and his three daughters, one of whom is named Cordelia. But it’s also an entirely modern tale featuring meth dealers and a female ship captain who hopes to stop them before they wreck her hometown. There’s homicide, a rape, the legacy of a world-famous painter and stormy seas, too.