When Edward "Skip" Gerber has a good looking overcoat thrust upon him as he leaves the office one afternoon, he finds himself propelled on a trek through the night and into the next day in order to locate the rightful owner of the overcoat. It's not a trek which anyone asked him to make and yet he seems to be possessed by it in order to lose possession of the coat. So begins The Man With The Overcoat by David Finkle, with a nod to the short story "The Overcoat" by Gogol, but crafted more as a tale reminiscent of Kafka or Borges. Within the coat itself, Gerber finds half clues or what he designates clues, bits of information, or more objects to which Gerber attaches meaning and from them attempts to inference information. The question which drives Gerber initially is why has he been given this exceptional overcoat, but the questions that follow have more to do with Gerber unravelling his own life as he pursues the mysterious origin of the overcoat and at a certain point it becomes evident that Gerber has taken his coat quest as an excuse to examine the life he's made and the life he actually wants as he moves from each solitary clue which leads to a half-clue, or a passing comment about the coat.
A real estate lawyer by trade, Gerber eventually even abandons his connection to his profession, losing his briefcase, which has even survived being dumped into a trash can by drag queens on the lower east side, in a cab. Throughout his quest, Gerber becomes less sure of the purpose of quest, does he really want to find the proper owner, or is his obsession more with the history of the coat. Ultimately, the overcoat becomes less of an actual object and more of a motive for Gerber to utilize in forcing his way from his everyday rut. Finkle's prose is not evocative or given to pushing the language with inventiveness, having a bit of understatement about it, but it is effective in moving the story along and with keeping the reader engaged with the Gerber odyssey, which is absurd in all the best ways, providing the reader with a good excuse to forego life for a bit and delve into another's pursuit of theirs.
The Man With The Overcoat by David Finkle is available from nthposition press.
A review copy was provided.