The Fracking King: A Novel

The Fracking King: A Novel

James Browning

Language: English

Pages: 192

ISBN: 0544262999

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A striking debut novel about boarding school, hardcore Scrabble, and fracking—a new kind of environmental novel by an important voice in the debate about fracking in America.

When the tap water at the Hale Boarding School for Boys bursts into flames, people blame fracking. Life at Hale has always been fraught—the swim test consists of being thrown into the pool with wrists and ankles tied, and a boy can be expelled if he and a girl keep fewer than “three feet on the floor.” But the sight of combustible drinking water and the possibility that fracking is making Hale kids sick turn one student into an unlikely hero in the fight to stop the controversial drilling practice.

Winston Crwth, a Scrabble prodigy whose baffling last name rhymes with “truth,” knows what it’s like to be “fractured,” having grown up with his father in Philadelphia and his mother in California. On Winston’s comic journey to the Pennsylvania State Scrabble Championship, where he hopes to win an audience with beauty-queen-turned-governor Linda King LaRue, he matches wits with Thomasina Wodtke-Weir, the headmaster’s prematurely gray daughter and the most popular (read: only) girl at school; the state poet laureate, whose verse consists of copying out dictionary entries and restroom graffiti; and David Dark, son of the CEO of Dark Oil & Gas, the source of Winston’s scholarship money.

The Fracking King is a fantastically inventive debut about rowing crew, using all your tiles, and trying to save the world.

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the boarding school experience—where he was the star quarterback and wrote for Leah’s newspaper. Coach K was from Russia and had gone to Harvard on a crew scholarship. The Hale team practiced every day and Coach K’s strategy was to compensate for our lack of strength, skill, and experience with sheer willpower. We rowed in the rain and Coach K promised that we would row in the snow. “You get day off once a year. For terrifying Hale swim test.” This was not a joke—Coach K was all muscle and sank

and—” “Win, not while I’m Scrabbling.” “Huh,” I said, and played this word, and Thomasina copied me, playing both blank tiles and making them both Hs—a suicidal move because the blanks are the two best tiles in the bag. The look on her face could also be described as blank, and I thought of Stephen Ha and had the bad feeling that our game was about to alter reality. I played SULUS for five points—a Melanesian skirt and a poor play but an attempt to climb out of her trap. Incredibly, Thomasina

“David?” Trevonia said, from the phone in David’s lap. Her face, with its bright blue eyes and spidery eyelashes, had appeared on the screen. She looked like a doll whose eyes would close if you pulled a string, and yet the disconcerting thing was that she also had crow’s feet and sunburn around her eyes—the eyes of a gardener, the face of a woman who had stared long and hard at life. “David, come to bed, it’s late.” “I am sitting here with Win.” “Dear, I don’t know who ‘Win’ is.” “A guy,”

greatest accomplishment had been getting a women’s bathroom put in the state capitol building in Annapolis. Talking to Hooke was like playing some maddening version of Scrabble in which words could be used only once . . . or like writing for Mr. U when he made us write without using nouns or verbs. I couldn’t outthink Hooke and couldn’t get two words out . . . until the musty smell of my grandmother’s books brought back a memory of sitting in front of her fire, drinking warm milk and feeling my

Mr. U, abandoning Jill with David Dark, or, perhaps, him with her. Hard to say which of them would make the other more miserable—the girl fighting the fracking happening near her house, or David Dark, the son and heir of Dark Oil & Gas. But I slept beautifully in suite 818 and now felt like the prince who peeks through his curtains at sunrise and gives thanks to God that he is not a commoner. Snow covered the green dome like sugar sprinkled on a cake. People swarmed the capitol like so many

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