JOE JONES by Anne Lamott


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A trendy-talking how-to-cope novel with lots of elevated pop-philosophical overtones from the author of Hard Laughter (1980) and Rosie (1983). Serious in its aims, sometimes funny, mainly just plain ludicrous. At Jessie's Cafe in California (""the sort of broken-down waterfront dive one might expect to find in Steinbeck or Saroyan"") are gathered a family-like group of people, all with problems. There is Jessie (her problem is that she's 79), the lovable and eccentric owner who sits each day at a window table with her dotty and senile friend Georgia. There is Willie, Jessie's 20-year-old orphaned grandson, whose problem is that he's been dumped by a lover ("" 'It's like we're out there on the porch, and he's being really adorable, and flirty,' he's choking on the words, stammering through tears. . .""). There's worldly-but-tender 43-year-old Louise, whose problem (among numerous others--including a wish to believe in God) is that she's been two-timed by Joe Jones; and there's Joe Jones himself, whose problem is a comically neurotic hypochondria and doom-anxiety caused by a dead father, cold mother, and miserably oversensitive childhood. But such problems are as nothing to that of Eva, the bird-thin, flutteringly helpless, exquisitely neurasthenic science teacher who, yes, is dying of a nameless, fatal disease. In the midst of all the sense of doom (often risibly inflated: ""The big eraser in the sky is going to come down and rub out Jessie. [Louise's] mind spins with sorrow for Willie. He is so young to have had so many amputations""), Jessie up and dies of heart failure (and Willie, before putting his fist through a window, says: ""I have taken--too many blows""). As for the rest, Eva goes off to Alaska, sending back postcards en route, we suppose, to a wispy, ennobled death; the unemployable Joe Jones gets a job tending bar (everyone cheers when they hear the news); and Willie and Louise plan a nice, stable, ""brother-and-sister"" marriage (""Willie? I love you more than I've ever loved anyone else in my life""), thus cauterizing life with a gesture of childish, orphans-in-the-storm perversity of the sort that, under it all, pervades the novel. A soap opera with literary pretensions, often brisk and cocky on the surface, sophomoric just about everywhere else.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1985
ISBN: 1593760035
Publisher: North Point