Charles Holdefer
Apology for Big Rod


Set in Chicago, this spare, funny first novel is
narrated by Judy Gass, the spirited offshoot of
a conservative heartland family. Written after
her uncle, Big Rod, dies in disgrace in a local
jail, this brief, carefully colloquial apology
remembers a man who acted according to
the belief that life is fleeting and that
happiness is the only worthwhile pursuit and
the only true standard of morality. Sickly as a
child, Rod suffered and witnessed death
during WWII. Far from being spiritually
deadened, however, he came home buoyed
by the insight that "you might as well kick
back and do as you damn please in this
world, since the worms are licking at your
heels." Indifferent to the disapproval of his
small-minded community, Big Rod pursued a
string of zany, scandalous ventures, including
pro boxing and selling chocolate Jesuses,
before he settled down to a job as night
janitor at a mortuary. His lifestyle turns
inexplicably lavish and his generosity counts
to no one but Judy when the outrageous
source of his affluence is revealed. Even at
the end, Judy observes, Big Rod goes out
with a liberating bang rather than a whimper.
Using earnest, often hilarious small-town
syntax, Holdefer tells the simple, memorable
tale of a man who lived life as if he savored it
and yet was indifferent to it, as if it were wine
in a beautiful glass that would inevitably be
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