MULDOON by Don Bredes


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Bredes did a nice, breezy job with raunchy adolescence in Hard Feelings (1977)--but here, with a slightly older narrator-hero and a somewhat more ambitious identity crisis, that same breeziness only scores about half the time. Will Muldoon, son of ex-tennis star Louise Fraser Muldoon and boozy sports-journalist Will Sr. (a onetime Tilden protÉgÉ), is 21 in 1969; his folks have long since broken up (they fought each other bitterly over Will Jr.'s tennis training); and now, after college in upstate N.Y., Will is heading home to California--to somehow resurrect his abandoned tennis career. . . and to reclaim his high-school sweetheart, the beautiful Cici: ""But wait, what the fuck--I am only twenty-one years old! Come on! This is prime-time city! There's nothing in my way but work, hard work."" Several obstacles, however, soon present themselves. Earthy super-coach Louise is anything but enthusiastic about Will's dubious tennis future, especially since she's obsessed with her young, Wimbledon-bound protÉgÉ-lover, ""Bad Barry"" Glines--a crude egomaniac whose behavior makes John McEnroe look like Prince Charles. Will's doom-and-gloom father has put in a rare reappearance--hiding in the attic, boozing, making a bid for Will Jr.'s trust-fund money. Cici--who turns out to be anorexic--is being held virtual prisoner by her parents. (Some faint, unfortunate echoes here of Scott Spencer's Endless Love.) And, worst of all, Will is supposed to report for a Selective Service physical on the Monday after his return to Balboa. The weekend, then, becomes something of a nightmare: night-crawling with Bad Barry (a funny strip-joint sequence); father-son harangues; a crash course in heavy smoking (to achieve 4-F status); the rescue of Cici. And finally, after 4-F success, Will and Cici hit the road--pursuing Will Sr. (who has stolen Will's money) but arriving at an unconvincingly sugary father-son reconciliation/finale: ""I was molten for a moment, hot and without senses, and when I firmed up, coming to, I felt new. Just new."" Bredes does best here with the tennis and the comedy, with the brawling folks--Louise, Bad Barry, and Will Sr. But Will Jr., unfortunately, seems more like an amalgam of 21-year-olds than a believable individual, especially in his obsession with the vapid Cici. And the Sixties commonplaces--the draft physical, the generation-gap (Will has long hair)--take on no new resonances. So: strong affirmation of Bredes' ability to write rangy, hang-loose narration and zesty set-pieces--but, though mostly likable, this reworking of the young-man-all-at-sea novel ends up seeming overextended, without a true, distinctive center.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1982
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston