DESERT BLUES by Bill Albert

DESERT BLUES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

First fiction that's like the desert in which it's set: flat and stretching for miles without hint of change or oasis. Harold is a flatulent, overweight 16-year-old whose parents die in a car wreck on the Pasadena Freeway. He goes to live in boring Palm Springs with his Aunt Enid, who is too buxom, too painted, and too brassy for his delicate adolescent sensibilities. But she's his only relative -- that is, until her deserter father, Harold's long-lost, alcoholic grandfather, Abe, arrives on Enid's doorstep. The crotchety old man's kidneys are failing; he needs a place to die. These travails are complicated by the fact that Enid is a kept woman, and her lover, Archie, doesn't like relatives crowding their nest. All parties collide at Enid's in a comic snarl in which the living terms are hashed out once and for ali. Will Archie throw Enid & Co. out? Will Enid throw Abe out? Will Enid relocate Harold? Who cares? The problem here is that the story's central conflict is a tempest in a teapot. The characters are too quirkily affable to do much damage to one another, and we know that Enid and Harold will survive even if they are curbside with only $700 because she's a trouper and he's young and resilient. The author avoids conflict at all costs -- Harold narrowly averts being beat up, Enid doesn't plotz that he got drunk, potential romances (for Enid and Harold) dissipate without investigation, and crises are faced with an oygevalt, this-is-my-life sense of humor. Interest in some decent comic moments wanes with the realization that the plot is gratuitous, the jokes are central. Everything in this novel is too easy -- including the laughs and the leaving of it at the end.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0759237697
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Permanent