cover of book

List: A Novel
by Matthew Roberson
University of Alabama Press, 2014
eISBN: 978-1-57366-844-6 | Paper: 978-1-57366-177-5
Library of Congress Classification PS3618.O3167L57 2013
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.6

Vignettes of a middle-class American family told through lists, each reflecting their obsessions, their complaints, their desires, and their humanity.

A suburban family of four—a man, woman, boy, and girl—struggle through claustrophobic days crowded with home improvement projects, conflicts at work and school, a job loss, illnesses, separation, and the wearying confrontation with aging. The accoutrements of modern life—electronic devices and vehicles—have ceased to be tools that support them and have become instead the central fulcrums around which their lives wheel as they chase “cleanliness” and other high virtues of middle American life.
In Matthew Roberson’s hands, the family’s list-making transcends the simple goal of planning. Their lists reveal the aspirations and anxieties that lie beneath the superficial clatter of everyday activities. Fearing the aimless chaos of unplanned days, the family compulsively compiles lists as maps to steer them away from uncertainty and failure, and yet at what point does a list stop being a map and become the final destination? The family creates an illusory cloud of meaningful activity but cannot stave off the mortal entropies that mark the suburban middle class.

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