by Michael Chabon ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 15, 1988
Heavy pre-pub hype (""Motion Picture Rights Sold to Lorimer"") ""Six-Figure Paperback Floor""!) ill serves the modest achievement of this competent first novel about the difficulties of being a mobster's son. During one ""dizzy summer""--one ""dull, stupid, lovely, dire summer""--Art Bechstein, a newly minted U. of Pitt. grad, discovers all sorts of nasty troths (and some ""mysteries"") about life, love, and the city of Pittsburgh. Early on in this often precious narrative, Art announces to his mob-accountant dad, ""I anticipate a coming season of dilated time and of women all in disarray,"" and thereby prepares the reader as well for his distended musings on his thrill-packed summer vacation. Every bit the ""devout narcissist"" and terminal adolescent his father accuses him of being, Art the econ major also has a poet's sensibility. How else to explain his overwrought response to the characters who change his life in just three months--a transformation that begins with a sexually-charged glance across the library stacks. The ""catamite"" and ""free atom,"" Arthur Lecomte serves as Virgil for Art's walk on the wild side, initiating him into the world of some ""beautiful people,"" and eventually into the joys of gay sex. Before Art and Art couple, young Bechstein takes up with Phlox Lombardi, ""a debutante from another planet."" Their dizzying circle of friends includes all kinds of supposedly glamorous types. At the center, though, is Cleveland Arning, a figure, we're told, of legendary proportions: he's ""Evil Incarnate,"" ""walking destruction,"" mysterious and alcoholic, a self-proclaimed ""tuck-up"" and a fan of Charles Bukowski. Most importantly, he wants Art to introduce him to his Washington-based father, ""Joe the Egg,"" whose line of work never interested his sensitive son. While the gangster's giddy child dithers through his soap-operatic dilemma--Art or Bhlox?--his father reveals his true mobster ways, with tragic results. Broadly-drawn characters, patches of careless writing, and improbable plot twists should make for a fine film.
Pub Date: April 15, 1988
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1988
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