THE CURRENT CLIMATE by Brace Jay Friedman


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Friedman's fiction (Tokyo Woes, 1985; About Harry Towns, 1974, etc.) by now has become a familiar wistful response to the malaise of being male. Here, he resuscitates Harry Towns and again runs him through Hollywood and high-action Manhattan, this time from a married base on Long Island. In the process, he serves up a few good horse-laughs and some telling slapstick. Towns' wife Julie and daughter Megan are shadow-figures at best, since Harry sets down at home only long enough to turn frantic. The novel opens with him pitching a TV show concept ""in which the main character was a dog"" and follows him through a sitcom madhouse: a shrink who faints; a hair-colorist who club-hops with him; a ""writer's"" bar; friend Nunzi's strange salon of hookers, Coke freaks, porn agents, and Mafia types; a whorehouse where the speciality is ""penis torture""; and a long flashback to the 1950's, when Towns headed up a magazine ""that was slavishly imitative of existing ones."" The present-tense narrative climaxes when Nunzi and his thugs help Towns recover his valuables after he's robbed in the whorehouse--the subtext is waning virility and Towns' battle against the inevitable: ""One thing about Harry is that he had great bounce-back."" The flashback mostly chronicles life in the Village, where Towns meets the lascivious and terribly neurotic Daphne, who takes him home to meet ""Daddo."" He breaks quickly with her and marries standby Sally before cranking out clones in publishing. Finally, nothing is resolved for this all-too-plausible cartoon character with an ache in his heart, but the network ultimately picks up the dog show, Towns parlays a love story ""into seventeen deals,"" and decides to do something serious--a play about the Spanish Armada. For the most part, a good-humored kvetch on the plight of an aging writer--diverting just often enough as it sends up ""the business"" and its own anti-hero.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1989
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown