In actor/playwright Bogosian’s third novel (Wasted Beauty, 2005, etc.), a successful middle-aged author finds another writer just as egotistical: himself, many years younger.
Richard Morris is single, childless and lecherous. The 56-year-old Jewish novelist lives to write, make money and bed pretty girls. Richard the lover belongs to the wham-bam school; as a thank-you, the lucky lady might get an autographed copy of his latest book (his fifth is just out). Recovering from heart surgery in his Connecticut country house in 2006, Richard stumbles on journals he’d written 30 years ago; the narrative from that point on alternates between the journal entries of Richard the Elder and the Younger. The latter is getting his bearings in New York. He shares a Manhattan apartment with an Israeli and a sexy Polish poet working at a real-estate agency. Richard makes a living answering phones at a video-art company in SoHo—still an actual artists’ colony in the 1970s—but he lives to get wasted, get laid and write up a storm, secretly taping his encounters to use as material for his stories. (Never trust a writer.) This will get him into trouble with Big John, a freaky pot dealer who generously shares his encyclopedic knowledge in his Williamsburg loft. Though Richard the Elder claims to be embarrassed by the excesses of his young self, all that really separates them is the beginner’s boundless energy. Both men are self-pitying, self-involved loners, and a little of this goes a long way, as Bogosian relentlessly hammers home his point. While his previous novels showcased a range of characters, here Richard sucks up all the oxygen. The revelations pile up; the self-portrait darkens to include a conveniently forgotten rape. At the end, Richard tracks down Big John, now a schizo in a nut house, and messes with his old lady and their son. It’s a gratuitous twist of the knife.
Only the vivid portraits of presanitized, pregentrified New York neighborhoods offer some relief from the sour monotony of the two Richards’ escapades.