An urban shut-in's lugubrious narrative of a life without purpose, spliced to a lengthy reconstruction of the career of the...

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BILLY'S BLUES

An urban shut-in's lugubrious narrative of a life without purpose, spliced to a lengthy reconstruction of the career of the historical killer Henry McCarty, a.k.a. William H. Bonney, a-k-a- Billy the Kid. Though he characterizes himself as ""built for comfort,"" Walter, the enormously fat, sugar-addicted agoraphobe of this tentative first novel from Meltzer, is anything but comfortable. A prisoner of his dead parents' New York City apartment, his expenses paid by their trust fund, Waiter's waking hours are spent nursing paranoid obsessions about the neighbors he encounters on brief journeys to his mailbox or the basement laundry machines. A fidgety sleeper, Walter repeatedly dreams of a spectral figure who may or may not be the Kid, then resolves to find out as much as he can about the historical figure from books, movie videos, and other materials he orders by mail What follows is a ragged assembly of annotated quotations (reproduced in varied typefaces) from memoirs about the Kid, Kid biographies, Kid film scripts, songs, dime novels, and other effluvia, all cluttered by Waiter's fretful analysis of American culture, in which the Kid serves as a mythic icon. After demonstrating, at tedious length, how much can never definitively be verified about the Kid's existence, Walter wrestles with the possibility that the legendary hero may not have died from Pat Garrett's shooting and could be his impossibly old great-grandfather, who has been making ominous calls to Walter's answering machine. Inspired by his research, Walter comes to terms with his own purposeless life and sets forth on an antiheroic quest to ""rescue"" his great-grandfather from a rest home A satiric gloss on the post--WW II urban coming-of-age novels of Bellow and Roth, padded to book length with material drawn from a variety of exotic sources.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0000057592

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Permanent

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998