All Back Full
All Back Full, the third novel from acclaimed author Robert Lopez, centers around one day in the lives of three characters: a husband and wife, and the man’s friend, who has been invited for dinner. Around the fixture of the kitchen table, the characters move in and out, discussing the news, nudists, submarines, the state of public transportation, seagulls, sexual perversion, and major league baseball. More important is what they will not discuss: lies, infidelity, that the man’s father has cancer and that this marriage is frayed at every seam. Ultimately, the friend’s presence upsets the fragile equilibrium and pushes the relationship to a breaking point, as the tensions between all three characters steadily unravel.
Told in a unique three-act structure, Robert Lopez delivers a novel of spare prose and surprising depth, delving into the origins of everything from whiskey to waltz. Lopez lives in Brooklyn, New York, and teaches at The New School, Pratt Institute, Columbia University, and the Solstice MFA Program of Pine Manor College. His stories have appeared in Bomb, American Reader, Nerve, New England Review,and others.
Praise and Reviews
“For my money, there are few writers who can do voice better than Robert Lopez, and few who can evoke so much of a world in so few words. Frank, funny, angular, and conceptual without the baggage, All Back Full breaks further ground of the wake of Beckett and Markson in the way only Lopez can. I look forward to his every sentence.”
—Blake Butler, author of Three Hundred Million
“Funny, past-paced, and weird, All Back Full has an addictive rhythm that makes it half song, a playfulness that makes it delightful, and a thoughtfulness that makes it important.”
—Deb Olin Unferth, author of Wait Till You See Me Dance
In Lopez’s hands, the ordinary is made strange; it reminds itself to us, fraught with inexplicability. Regular old life is creepy ... Lopez has been compared to Beckett, but his humor carries more oddball buoyancy, so that play peeks through the atmosphere of existential confusion. The sentences, mostly declarative and austere, accumulate meaning as they orbit off-kilter through a subject in dialogue, picking up a momentum engineered by qualifications and inversions of wit. Just when it seems that an idea has been drawn out to its logical limit, its absolute gut punch, Lopez redoubles. Part of the pleasure of All Back Full lies in the question of how far it—whatever it is, and it is probably life—can go. --- Tracy O’Neill from review in Guernica
You can't trust what anyone says, even if you thoroughly enjoy how they're saying it. Lopez says he works primarily on the sentence level, and it shows. With one sleight against convention, he manages to transform pleasant chitchat into electric prose ... Despite the narrator's penchant for relaying academic-sounding essays, Lopez methodically undermines the idea of the omniscient storyteller, revealing how easy it is to forge fact out of fiction. In the age of alternative facts, Lopez is the unlikely source of a timely lesson. --- Alana Mohammed from review in The Village Voice
All Back Full walks the line between a play and a novel, and it does so brilliantly. In fact, the book is explained as a 'novel in three acts,' and that's exactly what it is. This is a novel about the day-to-day grind, about the way marriage slowly corrodes, and about the strangeness of friendships that come and go. However, and this is what pushes this novel into must-read territory, Lopez is a master of both language and delivery ... Lopez is an entertaining author with a knack for dialogue and a superb eye for detail who is not afraid to play and experiment with storytelling. This book proves that he pulls it off while making it look easy. --- Gabino Iglesias from review in LitReactor
...how to explain the strange pull of this novel? It’s risk-taking work that, despite its realistic milieu, never approaches realism; nobody speaks in phrases that sound natural. Eventually a secret or two is revealed, and as the book rolls to its end, the work of Pinter comes to mind, with elliptical menace lurking in the corners ... Fans of Lopez will understand what he’s up to; others may be surprised to discover the novel, like a slug in the couple’s driveway, has inched its way into their heads and hearts. – Kirkus Reviews
Through the narrator’s sardonic expressions, short sentences, clipped paragraphs, and pointedly unreliable descriptions, Lopez forms a cutting, dry humor and—to match the characters’ bleak moods—a pervasive sense of boredom ... The novel’s motifs eventually intertwine in a satisfying ending that, like much of what’s said, is open to interpretation and misinterpretation. Fans of Lopez’s previous work will enjoy his latest, as will patient newcomers with an interest in drama and metafiction. – Publisher’s Weekly
Robert Lopez’s All Back Full is the most nihilistic book I’ve read in years. It is a remarkable achievement, especially if one measures an artistic achievement by its completeness of vision and demonstration of technique. – Marcus Practor from review in Green Mountains Review