3.5 stars (of a possible 5) rounded up for the sake of audacity
and originality -- and the excitement/expectation/military-grade Gravy-like
ecstasy we felt with our hands on a new Mark Leyner novel after a 15-year
absence. Didn't mind that it's a looping, recursive epic, with excruciating
redundancies, heavy-handed, stilted tropes and wearying cliches, overwrought
angst, gnomic non sequiturs, off-putting adolescent scatology and cringe-inducing
smuttiness, depraved tableaus and orgies of masturbation with all their
bulging, spurting shapes, and compulsive repetitions about Freud's repetition
compulsion . . .
That last bit there is plagiarized from the novel -- it's compulsively
repeated throughout, like a built-in critique for lazy haters to use.
Laughed out loud and/or made strange happy vocal noises maybe 40+ times?
Bothered wife person several times with requests to let us read aloud.
There's a ZINGER of a John Cage joke.
There's a tearing-up-laughing joke about Dick Van Dyke.
And otherwise there's typical Leyner brand pyrotechnic high-lit pop-lit
satirical silliness, featuring clinical language mixed with Romantic language
mixed with postmodern theory language mixed with Jerry Springer language
mixed with tabloid language mixed with online commentary language, all
of it undermined by a god named XOXO.
This sort of thing is not for everyone. Not at all for everyone. If
you like Charlie Kaufman movies ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
or "Being John Malkovich"), more recent George Saunders (Leyner has the
same agent, Binky Urban), the wackier DFW stuff (Leyner has the same editor,
Michael Pietsch), you'll bask in this intentionally over-the-top hi-falutin
If you don't like the aforementioned stuff, if you're a picky humorless
reader who cares about character development and plot and emotionality,
that is, anything more than riffs about gods doing human characters with
the frozen head of Ted Williams used as an anal bead once the human character
is increased in size by the god to 50 feet, etc, I wouldn't bother with
But otherwise, if you're interested in an example of truly LOL writing
that's unhinged and intelligent and puerile and SO FREAKING POMO and, importantly,
serves as a great example of a book that teaches you how to read it, Leyner
is at the very least a demi-god.
Otherwise, this was maybe too long for me by 100 quick pages?
An absolute must for fans of seriously funny effed-up writing.
Familiarity with medical terminology a plus!
Here's a Mark
Leyner profile in the New York Times if you need a refresher on who
he is and where he's been.
review by Ben Marcus.
The first paragraph of this old post on Eyeshot called "Satirists
Suck" was inspired by Mr. Leyner.