Mano (The Death and Life of Harry Goth, Horn) still hasn't really found a steady focus for his exuberant, caustic...



Mano (The Death and Life of Harry Goth, Horn) still hasn't really found a steady focus for his exuberant, caustic verballismo; this very long, very dense novel repeats itself, sags periodically, and never lives up to its grandiose blueprint. But. . . it's funny, laugh-out-loud funny a lot of the time--and that's nothing to sneeze at, even if Mano-vian humor continues to be off-limits for those unsettled by sex-jokes, Jesus jokes, ethnic jokes, or scatology. The source of all this hilarious foulness is Simon Lynxx, a non-original but grandly cumulative creation: the total sum of every abusive, narcissistic, selfish creep in comedy--from Volpone to Sheridan Whiteside to Don Rickles. Simon, you see, is a filmmaker (The Clap That Took Over the World, Diner), and he's broke again, without the funds needed to continue work on Jesus 2001. (""I have something in mind like Truffaut's Day for Night, but without the frog mannerisms. Get it? Huh? Or am I talking to a piece of wallboard?"") So Mano follows Simon's picaresque pursuit of cash--a pursuit which causes him to lose each of his five senses, one by one, in slapsticky accidents (the novel, by the way, is paginated backwards); and since Simon travels, in his film-co, van, with a female/Jewish/homosexual production team, there's lots of bigot-buffa to fill in between adventures. Some samples of Simon's fund-raising schemes: he returns to loot his ancestral manse--Van Lynxx Manor in Bayside, Queens--but finds that it's been donated to the Landmarks Commission (15 black schoolkids on a tour encounter the naked Simon in the Martha Washington bedroom); he becomes a courtesan, dressing up as a tango-dancer to service an elderly, addled matron; he renames his film Jesus 3X, puts on blackface, and tries to get Minority Incentive funding (""I gonna need more than six tits an' a clean sheet. Jesus 3X is a major minority flick""); he hires two black pals to mug old movie-titan Herman Wolff, so that Simon can save Wolff and cash in on gratitude. (Wolff comes across, but Simon has to dish up a new scenario: ""I've just ransacked North Banality for a four-Kleenex screen treatment. . . Dogs and little boys. Crippled little boys."") And when Simon also tries to seduce an heiress--""you, my tiny side order of spaetzle, you have a great face""--it's a case of mistaken identity that leads him, slowly, to true-love Merry, a wearisome philosophy major. Heard enough? Well, there's lots more: Simon's trysting with van groupie Mrs. Minnie Fischer, she of the bronze bas-relief-cum-chastity-belt; the sexual fate of Minnie's teenage son; Simon's memories of his grotesque parents, with family secrets to be revealed; send-ups of the media, artsy and otherwise; etc. And, throughout, there's that loss-of-the-senses framework--which, though never leaned on pretentiously, does eventually take on some (if not enough) resonance: Simon is left a zombie/vegetable, loved by Merry but otherwise destroyed by his dubious art-quest. As a parable of the artist's fate? Half-baked. As a bravura mega-fiction? Richly uneven. But as a showcase for Mano's comedy--the allusive lancings, the verbal vaudeville, the thesaurus of insults, the scenic invention--this is just fine: if you're not easily offended, you'll be easily, repeatedly blasted into fits of shamefaced laughter.

Pub Date: May 17, 1982

ISBN: 1564781933

Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982