I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel in rhyming verse form, but that’s what Pineapple by Joe Taylor. It’s also a satire, a commentary, a mystery, a comedy, a story (or stories) within a story, and several other things I probably missed.
Pineapple is the story of a group of people working at present-day Los Alamos. When they’re not thinking about organizational politics and the history of the place (the ghosts of Robert Oppenheimer, General Groves, and the atomic bomb seem to hang over everything), they’re usually thinking about sex. If you want a politically correct account of how people think about sex, this isn’t the work for you.
And then threats begin to occur, usually in the form of anonymous and rather nasty valentines. Then the body of a young woman turns up, and cause o of death is determined to be suffocation.
More bodies begin to turn up, scattered all over the countryside. Our group of Los Alamos friends begins to consider the possibility of aliens, but the cause is closer to home – and perhaps more terrifying. Perhaps because it’s in verse from, the story demands a very close reading to keep track of the various characters and the narrative itself.
Literary and historical allusions abound, and not only those connected to the history of Los Alamos. From the beginning one has the sense of reading a kind of Shakespeare play, and it’s no coincidence that the opera “Otelo” by Verdi plays a role in the story.
Taylor received a PhD degree from the University of Florida. He teaches at the University of West Alabama, where he’s served as editor and publisher of Livingston Press. He’s the author of Oldcat & Mrs. Puss: A Book of Days for You and Me and three short story collections, and has edited several short story anthologies.
Pineapple is a fascinating romp that moves through rhyme to tell a very contemporary story.
Top photograph: Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.