HARD LAUGHTER by Anne Lamott


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Most of my friends are motley, antisocial, deranged, semialcoholic, and black humored, each one stranger than the last."" That's a small sample of the show-offy overkill that often undermines this occasionally engaging first novel--which mostly monitors the agonies and joys of 24-year-old Jennifer and her two brothers as they cope with good and bad news in the course of their adored father's diagnosis, surgery, treatment, and tentative recovery from a brain tumor incursion. The three hover around father Wallace, a graceful and witty man who, before the operation, discusses in the joshing vein of his offspring the matter of euthanasia: ""Do not,"" says Wallace to make things crystal clear, ""I repeat, do not do anything about it until you hear from me."" During the days of the family's ordeal, narrator Jennifer reconnoiters with her ten-year-old chum Megan, with hang-loose talks about heavy stuff; she works things out with another best pal, Kathleen, her ""Dream Consultant"" (like all Gestalt dream therapists, she's ""an occasional dope""); she reminisces about feckless lovers (that one night with Kathleen was funny and nice, but she likes non-hassling Ben, too); she tries to write; and she observes the weirdos in her northern California town: the Burn Outs, alcoholics, trust-fund radicals, and Eastern-religion types (Jennifer cleans house for a pair whose baby is named ""Shiva the Stupa""). Jennifer also mulls Death, of course, as well as Why and Loving, between or during beer and joints. And the three siblings, in their love for Wallace, find closer ties with one another. There's lots of hanging around, tears, anecdotes about loopy people, giant highs--all adding up to a young, sentimental, often bright and funny first novel that's a bit too on-stage, showy, and smart-ass to take seriously. . . or to heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
ISBN: 0865472807
Publisher: Viking