Debut novel about listless non-achievement, from the author of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2003).
Unemployed and living like vegetables in a basement in Queens, New York, Edward Krumble and his herb-smoking partner-in-crime Chris Plork get turned onto the debased world of “human guinea pigging.” An especially risky experiment provides them with enough funds to take a Greyhound to Los Angeles, where they end up with steady work as “clappers”—paid audience participants on daytime TV shows and infomercials. Narrator Eddie, who is as inexperienced as he is ambitionless, eventually falls for Judy, the night attendant at a local gas station. The two bond, but suddenly Eddie’s comfortable, if excruciatingly boring, clapper life is threatened in a quintessentially L.A. way when Jay Leno airs a comical exposé showing him participating on a host of different shows in various disguises. Cover blown, Eddie is effectively out of work—but “the clapper” is a huge hit on The Tonight Show. Meanwhile, Judy loses her job, and she and Eddie, having never exchanged phone numbers, lose touch. Desperate, Eddie cashes in on his 15 minutes of fame with a recurring part on The Tonight Show in which he scours the streets in search of his lost love. When an on-air phone call with Judy goes awry, the tabloid circuit brandishes Eddie a stalker, and his skit is canned. Down and out, he gets booked to tell his story on a poorly rated daytime talk show. Miraculously, Judy is in the audience. Eddie proposes, and the two get married on (of course) The Tonight Show. The plot is entertaining enough, but Montiel’s excruciatingly banal stream-of-consciousness prose would work better onscreen than it does in print.
Unfocused and rambling.