The Autodidacts

By Thomas Kendall

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A man mysteriously disappears in a lighthouse, as if dissolved by light, leaving behind a notebook filled with bizarre claims of a curse and a series of drawings entitled ‘The Death of the Jubilant Child.’ The investigation into the disappearance unearths hidden connections between the disappeared man, Helene and the strange figure of the Man With The Forks In His Fingers. Fifteen years later, the discovery of the detective’s copy of the notebook by Helene’s daughter seems to set in motion a repetition of the events of the past.

Circuitously structured and intensely lyrical, The Autodidacts explores the mythos of friendship, the necessity of failure, the duty of imagination, and the dreams of working class lives demanding to be beautiful. It is a prayer in denial of its heresy, a metafictional-roman-a-clef trying to maintain its concealment, and an attempt to love that shows its workings out in the margins of its construction.



Publication date: 23 March 2022


Thomas Kendall’s THE AUTODIDACTS is a brilliant novel — inviting like a secret passage, infallible in its somehow orderly but whirligig construction, spine-tingling to unpack, and as haunted as any fiction in recent memory.

– Dennis Cooper

Like skateboard tricks the most nimble minds struggle to unwind, Kendall's sentences are intricate mechanisms that merge action and abstraction into something so compelling to observe.

– Meg Gluth, author of NO OTHER and COME DOWN TO US

The Autodidacts is a novel of impressive scope and detail. It’s an absorbing history of how several families have been haunted by a series of deaths and disappearances involving a mysterious lighthouse. It’s also an epic of the everyday, where small gestures and fleeting thoughts are given center stage, transformed into startling insights and astonishing sentences. Each moment of the characters’ intricately inter-stitched lives is illuminated by Kendall’s megawatt prose.

– Jeff Jackson, author of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS

There is more than a hint of wizardry to Kendall’s prose—the way he describes emotions that are somehow too specific name, but so intrinsically familiar that you immediately recall times you’ve felt them yourself; the way he builds characters by describing absolutely everything around them—the way their skin reacts to the very air—and in so doing, allows you to step into that excised space and inhabit them fully, every one, as if you too were caught up in the intricate playlets of their Platonic cave wall.

– David Fitzgerald, author of TROLL