Zielinski's first novel is based on a familiar idea--in this case, the disturbed Vietnam vet who teeters, totters, and finally tumbles into the abyss that awaited him from the start. Nicholas Adams is a profoundly troubled man, unable to separate the traumatic past from the oppressive present, or his life from memories of monster movies that have fascinated him. He's shell-shocked from the war, recently dismissed from the Walla Walla Bears baseball team for overachieving, and befriended in San Diego by Argo, a venomous Mailer-esque alcoholic and writer of pulp fiction, who never forgave his wife for leaving him, and LaWanda, a young waitress with a prodigious sexual appetite and New Age sensibilities. Nick depends on the two of them for stability, and desperately needs both to get through the novel's one day, because he can't hold himself together anymore. He opts for Argo's advice given earlier to go out and have sex as a solution to all of his troubles, and wakes up determined to try his luck with LaWanda. After a series of frustrating, disorienting, and above all violent encounters, he eventually succeeds, but the price of his release is annihilation for all concerned. While acerbic in humor and unrelenting in its dark vision of human kindness--giving every action a jagged, bloody edge--the undeniable vitality of this story is sapped by clichâ€šs and ultimately eclipsed by an abrupt and abysmal ending. Nick's complex character, in constant focus, mirrors the fragmented, alienated social relations that surround him, and at this Zielinski is most successful. But the notion is hardly new, and the points of reference here are so transitory that this tale turns endlessly on itself, until it simply stops short. A grim comedy bordering on the obscene: not for the fainthearted, and monstrously overwtitten.
Pub Date: Jan. 29, 1989
Page Count: -
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown