Ten years after John Kennedy Toole caused a sensation (posthumously) with A Confederacy of Dunces, here is another dark comedy about a kooky, disaffected fat man, with this difference: Martin's first novel is as lifeless as Toole's was vital. Like Toole's Ignatius Reilly, Aaron Dodge hankers for another time; Ignatius missed Medieval Europe, while Aaron, less extravagantly, misses the Sixties. The 33-year-old baby boomer finds his hometown (Phoenix, Arizona) a stultifying place to be in 1985; for consolation, he hangs out at a combination luncheonette/organic grocery: ""what was left of the '60s counterculture could usually be found seated at LuLu's counter."" Aaron weighs 300-some pounds; his overeating began as a ploy to get a medical deferment and escape the draft. He is an inventor whose main source of income is a syndicated column on new patented devices; and he spends a lot of time in his bathtub, where he is visited by the departed. A natural bachelor, Aaron lives alone until his neighbor Kennedy, a dazzlingly wholesome 19-year-old female student, falls in love with him and moves in; in her wake come, sporadically, the six children of her just-separated sister Laura, for whom Aaron becomes an unofficial godfather. This is a situation, of sorts; the best Martin can do for a storyline is to involve Aaron in the search for a missing schoolgirl; his inventor's skills are needed in a never-credible scheme to fix the state lottery machine (don't ask). Eventually, the little girl is retrieved from her kidnapper, and Aaron becomes her therapist. No laughs here, and no suspense either: just the depressing sight of a writer tying himself in knots in the struggle to produce them.