Nose popped in a brawl, butter-fed scion of a winery magnate goes bonkers for payback. Seeking revenge less on the goon who whacked him than on his namby-pamby past, he aspires to become Pleistocene.
Wilted from a ho-hum night with a joyless date, Paul Harris gets jumped by trailer trash in a tapas bar. Davidson (Rust and Bone, 2005) isn’t kidding; for him, such obviousness constitutes class struggle. Across town, Robbie Tully, third-generation boxer, trains in Top Rank, a basement club that’s mega-prole: “CLUB TOWULS ARE FOR SWET ONLY, NOT BLOOD!!!,” a wall-sign reads. From the beginning, the pair’s face-off is pre-destined; on the way there, we get Paul’s rebellion against soft-palmed, hard-assed Pops, intriguing inside-skinny on boxing history (19th-century pugilists soaked their mitts in walnut juice) and Robbie’s shaky romance with a neighborhood hottie certain he’s just too good to end up a brokedown pug. So far, so Rocky-meets-Fight Club. But the former at least was (clunkily) inspiring, and the latter told Jungian truths about “persona” and “shadow” in a peachy-Nietzsche kind of way. Here, there’s no metaphysics, only meat. Rhapsodic homoeroticism alternates with emetic violence. The full extent of Paul’s Oedipal conflict and Iron John psychopathology exerts a sick fascination, and the prose is Harry Crews on steroids. As these brutes collide and collide and collide to the soundtrack accompaniment of Cannibal Corpse’s “I Cum Blood,” readers may long for Proust, or Disney, or even the back of a breakfast-food box.
More a grunt than a novel. “Macho” doesn’t begin to cover it.