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Pay As You Go
Eskor David Johnson


New to town and delusionally confident, Slide imagined himself living in a glossy building with doormen and sweeping views of the skyline. Instead he’s landed in a creaking, stuffy apartment with two roommates: a loping giant who hardly leaves his room, and a weight-obsessed neurotic who keeps no fewer than forty-seven lamps throughout the house, blazing at all hours.

Unwilling to accept this fate, Slide—a barber with an opaque past—embarks on a quest for the perfect apartment, pinballing through the sprawling, madcap city of Polis and its endless procession of neighborhoods. As he bounces from foldout couch to disaster-relief tent, falling in with some tough types, Slide begins to realize that he’s going to have to scratch and claw just to claim a place for himself in this world—let alone a place with in-unit laundry.

An exuberant, fantastical odyssey, Pay As You Go wonders if what we’re searching for is ever really out there. Its pages—surreal, biting, and teeming with life—announce the startling talents of Eskor David Johnson, who knows that all any of us really want is a place to rest our head.


Eskor David Johnson is a writer from Trinidad and Tobago and the United States. His writing has appeared in BOMB Magazine, and McSweeney's Quarterly Concern. A graduate of Harvard University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he was the recipient of the Richard Yates Short Story Prize, the Maytag Fellowship and the Teaching-Writing Fellowship, he currently lives in New York City.


Both lampooning city life and confessing love for it, this story is a display of prodigious storytelling talent. It rushes by with the creative adrenaline of a one-man show; it hums with an infectious joy. […] Told in a raucous vaudeville style that blends gorgeous lyrical descriptions with madcap farce, Pay As You Go is a magnetic novel.” -- Foreword Reviews, starred review

“A madcap odyssey through the hellscape that is the metropolis of the near future. […] Like Dante, Slide wanders in circles, soaking in weirdness, tragedies, and occasional flashes of beauty. And like Joyce, Johnson builds a world that, for all its improbabilities, is recognizable. […] An inventive, beautifully written debut that will leave readers wanting more.” -- Kirkus, starred review

“Johnson’s unbridled debut runs in circles of accelerating grandiosity and lunacy.” -- Publishers Weekly

“A brilliantly surreal and vivid feat of imagination.” -- Literary Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2023, Part Two

“Eskor David Johnson’s Pay As You Go dramatizes the important question of what is home as Slide maneuvers life’s obstacles and searches for a place to live. Johnson writes with the fierce intensity of Ralph Ellison and delivers a prodigious and compelling novel with an unforgettable story. Eskor David Johnson is an extraordinary writer.” -- Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed

Pay As You Go is an exuberant, maximalist delight.” -- Kelly Link, author of White Cat, Black Dog

“A wondrous mock epic, dreamlike yet jaunty, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. […] Johnson’s gift for pure invention is downright García Márquezian, and Polis is his rambunctious Macondo, a place readers will want to visit again and again.” -- Ed Park, author of Same Bed Different Dreams

[H]  McSweeney's  /  October 24, 2023

2.7" H x 7.9" L x 6.1" W (1.85 lbs)