God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer: A Novel (Hardcover)

God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer: A Novel By Joseph Earl Thomas Cover Image

God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer: A Novel (Hardcover)


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“Like the work of Jackson Pollock, the novel reveals itself the longer one spends time with it. Keep looking, the chaos will start to show its pattern, its rhythm, its dimension and its awe-inspiring color.” - New York Times Book Review
“An astonishingly accomplished novel…Just stunning.” – Kirkus Reviews, starred review

A stirring, unsparing novel about Black life in Philadelphia and the struggle to build intimate connections through the eyes of a struggling ex-Army grad student that “reads like a direct communication from the soul,” (Justin Torres) from the virtuoso author of Sink

After a deployment in the Iraq War dually defined by threat and interminable mundanity, Joseph Thomas is fighting to find his footing. Now a doctoral student at The University, and an EMS worker at the hospital in North Philly, he encounters round the clock friends and family from his past life and would-be future at his job, including contemporaries of his estranged father, a man he knows little about, serving time at Holmesburg prison for the statutory rape of his then-teenage mother. Meanwhile, he and his best friend Ray, a fellow vet, are alternatingly bonding over and struggling with their shared experience and return to civilian life, locked in their own rhythms of lust, heartbreak, and responsibility.

Balancing the joys and frustrations of single fatherhood, his studies, and ceaseless shifts at the hospital as he becomes closer than he ever imagined to his father, Joseph tries to articulate vernacular understandings of the sociopolitical struggles he recounts as participant-observer at home, against the assumptions of his friends and colleagues. GOD BLESS YOU, OTIS SPUNKMEYER is a powerful examination of every day black life—of health and sex, race and punishment, and the gaps between our desires and our politics.
Joseph Earl Thomas is the author of Sink, a memoir, the novel God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer, and the story collection Leviathan Beach (Grand Central, 2025). His prose, poetry and criticism has been published in The Kenyon Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Dilettante Army, and The New York Times Book Review. Sink was longlisted for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s MFA program in prose, he earned his PhD in English at The University of Pennsylvania and teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College. At The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, he also teaches courses in Black Studies, Poetics, Queer Theory, and Video Games.
Product Details ISBN: 9781538740989
ISBN-10: 1538740982
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 18th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English
"Joseph Earl Thomas is a writer of incredible gifts. The voice here is so distinctive, galloping with intelligence, poetry, honesty, and humor. Bless You Otis Spunkmeyer spun me around, like many of my favorite novels, it reads like direct communication from the soul."—Justin Torres, author of Blackouts

"What’s thrilling to me about God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer is the faith Joseph Earl Thomas places in his readers. There’s a supersaturation here that reminds me of Denis Johnson’s vertiginous moral questing, and a topography of mind and place that kept making me think of Teju Cole’s poet-doctor of the modern metropolis. Thomas gives us a fully peopled world, not by speaking in grand oracular exposition, but by getting granular—we see the Reebok slides on a romantic rival, the crinkled cookie wrappers out of which grow a friendship. It’s such a deftly choreographed dance—intoxicating, propulsive—and the result is utterly mesmerizing: here is a whole cosmos, as vivid and unprecedented as our own." —Kaveh Akbar, author of Martyr!

"Ribald, seething, lyrical, generous, heartbroken, and brilliant -- God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer is a staggering literary achievement, one of those rare books that breaks and remakes the very idea of the novel. With unflinching courage, luminous spirit, and a virtuosic flow, Joseph Earl Thomas has written a Joycean Ulysses inside a Philly E.R., bodying forth the voice of a true American original."  —Roy Scranton, author of War Porn and Learning to Die in the Anthropocene

“I have never read something so fucking funny and so fucking weird and so fucking full—full of life full of language full of traumas full of niggas. Fam, Joseph has something here that is so bursting of everything you want in a book that reading it will burst you open too. He is a virtuoso. I hate this nigga.”—Damon Young, author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays

"God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer is Joseph Earl Thomas' formidable, groundbreaking debut. There's so much magic in the rare combination of tenderness, humor, and heartbreak contained in this story. Our narrator, Joseph, is unlike any character I've read, just as Thomas' debut has no equal."—Cleyvis Natera, author of Neruda on the Park

“Joseph Earl Thomas’s God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer is a brilliant novel of hunger and work and care and grief that deftly captures the maddening mess of everything that makes life worth living. Thomas is a skilled, surgical prose stylist; his sentences are magnificent scalpels. There isn’t a single dull line in the book. God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer is unpredictable, unsentimental, and impressively tender.”
 —Isle McElroy, author of People Collide

“In this complex novel, a young man lives on two timelines. In one he’s working a very long hospital shift, increasingly dizzy with hunger. In one he relives his history, ‘a version of the truth wrapped in a longer lie,’ working through love and lust, memory and regret. You might call it present time and past time, or body time and head time. While God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer is about all the traps of black reality (poverty, fear, war, sickness, death) it’s also always about language, writing and speech, play and voluminous possibility. Joseph Earl Thomas’s writing is contemplative, hilarious, disorienting, tragic, and thoroughly daring, full of life and style.”

Elisa Gabbert, author of Any Person Is the Only Self

"This is an astonishingly accomplished novel, often funny, often tragic...Just stunning." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"[M]agnificent...In a remarkable feat of formal invention, Thomas collapses time and space, melding Joey’s memories with descriptions of patients in the ER...Thomas scales great heights with this innovative blend of social realism and surrealism.”—Publisher's Weekly, starred review

"Thomas expertly employs a stream-of-consciousness style...The result is a kaleidoscopic tour through Joseph’s eventful life. God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer is an intricate and brave debut that readers will savor."

Bookpage, starred review

"Like the work of Jackson Pollock, the novel reveals itself the longer one spends time with it. Keep looking, the chaos will start to show its pattern, its rhythm, its dimension and its awe-inspiring color."—New York Times Book Review

"Joseph’s travails, told in a forceful stream of consciousness, expose the daily rhythms, obstacles and joys of one man’s life."—Washington Post

"[A] rollicking stream of consciousness, flowing from a writer with an extraordinarily endless well of humor, fervor, and conviction."—BOMB Magazine