A college grad struggles haplessly to define himself in this comic coming-of-age story.
After he collects his sheepskin and gets dumped by his girlfriend Brynn for not being â€œdangerous” enough, Darius Fitzpatrick faces the age-old dilemma about what to do with his life. Joining an insurance company will simply perpetuate his innocuousness, but robbing the bank where Brynn works to affect an outlaw soul is liable to backfire like his other initiatives and, Darius frets, lead to a long stretch of prison and rape. To distance himself from his own harmless conformity, Darius takes to carrying a gun, with which he ineptly menaces an obnoxious bicycle messenger, and then flees to Europe, where he passes time in an idyllic Irish village, then in an alienating Paris. Unlike The Graduate’s muddled young hero, very much his precursor, Darius finds no great romance to prod him into breaking with convention–the closest he comes is a premature ejaculation induced by a French whore. While his fumbling attempts to engage with real-life misfire, Darius lives mostly in his head, which teems with fantasy scenarios–saving would-be suicides, being beaten up by righteous black people, committing many varieties of bank robbery–that veer between abject self-loathing and masturbatory reverie. In between his neurotic daydreams, Darius revisits scenes from a childhood scarred by his father’s ghastly death and spins hilarious riffs on Nerf toys and other horrors of modern life. O’Shea’s first novel sometimes seems as much a feckless shaggy-dog story as Darius’s life, but its meanderings are full of dejected humor and a wry sympathy for his hero’s predicament. Readers will care about this young searcher, exiled from childhood with no map to manhood.
An accomplished and affecting debut.