I am very excited to have this opportunity to be the first to despoil the virgin territory of the Strangelands' new review section. And having enjoyed Rayís various books over the years, I am also excited about this opportunity to give something back by contributing this first (and, given my laziness, perhaps last) review to a line of posts (open, of course, to all) I shall call "Books Ray Will Like."
Now, I donít actually know Ray personally. Or, indeed, know anything about him at all, other than the persona he adopts for this site. But based on his affinity for at least writing, if not necessarily living, the sarcastic, sex-and-booze lifestyle, I imagine he will be a big fan of Modern Man by E.J. Lonergan.
Rob is a real dick. When we first meet Rob, he is amusing himself by asking a woman on his morning commute whether she gives blow jobs -- "and I'm talking about the swallowing kind, not just a half-hearted-hand-job finish" -- to her husband, who is waving goodbye to her from the train platform.
In sum, Rob is an asshole, and proud of it.
Then Rob meets Dick. In Robís standard, provocative way, he offers to trade his spouse Kate for Dickís wife Cindy.
But Rob get a surprise, because Dick is also an asshole:
Iím stunned. Iíve reached a point of being so utterly pissed at a society that does things with unquestioning structure and expectation that I go out of my way to attempt to upset the apple cart. 999,999 out of a million men would get into their fucking minivans and drive on their merry, pathetic way to have the same Thanksgiving as every year. But this guy, this is the millionth guy Ė the one with an equal disdain for everything expected, the one with a desire to immediately and drastically alter his existence, but frustrated by having to live in a world that will not give him the opportunity.
His sexy wife leans toward him and says something. He gives her the dismissive sneer I regularly give to Kate and I find that hilarious. He closes the car door and steps toward me.
999,999 out of one million men would be terrified by this development. Iím not.
I too am the millionth, and something unprecedented is about to transpire.
And then the insanity really begins.
Let me be perfectly clear: this novel is raw. The very first question Dick asks upon meeting his new wife Kate is "are you shaved?"* Nor is it just Rob and Dick; Kate and Cindy are almost as insane as their husbands. All four are pathetic and unlikable to various degrees, ranging from "very" to "extraordinarily."
But one has to admire author E.J. Lonerganís focus. Heís succeeded in writing a whole book about this rather dispiriting lot. Even more impressive, the book is genuinely funny, albeit in a very dark, very bitter way. There is not a tremendous amount of plot, but the characters and situation are twisted enough, and the misanthropy spurting off of the page is so very, very dense, that the reader simply cannot Ė and does not want to Ė look away.
So Ray . . . this oneís for you. Enjoy!
* Incidentally, Dick is thrilled with Kate's response. I know some of you are now dying for the answer, but Iím going to make you read the novel yourself to find it out. I mean, I canít be giving everything away here.
Posted under Reviews on 2/07/10