SWAGBELLY by D.J. Levien
Kirkus Star


A Novel for Today’s Gentleman
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Novelist (Wormwood, 1999) and screenwriter Levien herein creates a world-swallowing publishing Gargantua whose hungers mirror those of Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King (‘I want, I want, I want!’).

Elliot Grubman, now post-50 and fading in the penile joint (it’s an emotional problem, he tells his Erectile Therapist, who replies,“Don’t fear the technology, Grubman. We live in the golden age of penile hemodynamics”), publishes Swagbelly, a monthly masturbation aid for men (“Mine is a pornographer’s tale”) and has a personal fortune of $100 million to keep tailored in fabrics you and I only dream about, be chauffeured, remain horsy with stables and polo ponies, awash in cigars and viands of the utmost refinement, and catered to by surgically resplendent replacements for Lauren, the wife who divorced him and whose settlement removed a pocket of his fortune, along with hefty upkeep for son Andrew. “I basically want everyone around me to be happy in life, starting with me,” says Grubman. Unhappily for him, his current mistress Yvonne, 15 but with a doctored ID suggesting she’s 19, is a swankily refurbished teenybopper from Reykjavik—who’s pregnant. She hopes to marry him, but Grubman plans to fob her off onto his friendly abortionist: “A man such as myself—not especially facile in matters of emotion, set in my ways, past fifty—I cringe involuntarily at a mess, and eventually come to resent those involved in creating it.” His most heartfelt mess turns on son Andrew, who disdains his bar mitzvah and wants to become Catholic, like his mother: his confirmation, when it comes up, will be a bit like Dustin Hoffman’s church invasion in The Graduate joined to Woody Allen's big sprint in Manhattan.

Elegantly emprosed. Calling Jack Nicholson.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-452-28454-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Plume
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2003