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by Adam Rapp

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 0-374-29343-0
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The first novel for adults from an award-winning playwright and young-adult author (Under the Wolf, Under the Dog, 2004).

This is a coming-of-age story set in Manhattan in the early ’90s. The protagonist is a Midwestern boy. It hardly matters from which city he hails. Lawrence, Green Bay, Dubuque, Joliet, Altoona: They’re all the same, in that they’re all not New York. The hero’s eagerness to shed his provincial persona is such that he demands a rechristening to celebrate his fresh start in the big city—his new name is “Homon,” short for “Homunculus,” and it’s the only name the reader learns—but he remains conspicuous due to his lame wardrobe, his polite earnestness and his sheer corn-fed size. Homon does manage to land an honest-to-goodness New York job, though, when he takes an entry-level position at a big publishing house. He also gets an appropriately crappy apartment in the East Village, complete with the requisite bad roommate. Homon is, then, a particular kind of Everyman. What distinguishes his story from others like it is his creator’s gift for language and sense of humor. When, for example, Homon goes to a secondhand store to visit the typewriter he sold to pay the Con Ed bill, he says: “The woman behind the counter watched me the same way a grammar-school principal might watch children throwing snowballs in an out-of-school parking lot.” Later, Homon describes his date with an assertive young woman thusly: “We walked like we were lab partners and she had all the results.” Indeed, whether he’s writing about office-party food, the fate of mid-list authors in a recession or the smell of Manhattan in the summertime, Rapp runs the risk of exhausting the reader with imaginatively embellished details, but it’s not necessarily a bad kind of exhaustion: The accumulation of offbeat observations occasionally produces a certain existential hilarity.

A familiar story originally rendered.