Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
First Committee Member
Douglas A. Unger
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Megan L. Becker
Fourth Committee Member
Patrick S. Clark
Number of Pages
Learning to Adapt is a novel of slow-motion disaster. It tells the story of one-hit-wonder songwriter Sim Henrie, who has gone into hiding to gradually go broke, but then takes a job with a paint crew. It’s a meditation on celebrity, paranoia, and surveillance, but it’s also a gripping construction-worker drama.
If we were to analyze it the way one analyzes a dream, we would soon notice the whole thing fairly trembles with sexual undertones. Examples are too numerous to even begin to elucidate, but simply open the thing to any page and see if it isn’t true.
In addition to the singing painter, in italicized mini-chapters which alternate with those of the main narrative, one finds a survey of personalities of a peculiar race of little people called contumblies, who live in a mirror realm—while Sim, the singer, lives in Provo, the contumblies live in Ovorp. These little people serve as embodiments of various forms of motive.
Learning to Adapt is a tragedy, its subject the decline of the blue-collar American male. It is at the same time, however, a love letter to Utah Valley. And most of all, it is an existential mystery whose philosophical resolution veers dangerously into the dimension of the True Random, with implications both unsettling and absurd.
Elcock, Kelly, "Learning to Adapt" (2017). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 2967.
Available for download on Wednesday, May 15, 2024