POISON PEN by George Garrett


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Garrett's previous five novels and 15 other books run the gamut from serious historical fiction (Death of the Fox) to zany short stories (The Magic Striptease). This epistolary novel is a ramshackle satire of contemporary America. The letters, tape transcripts, memos and assorted unclassifiable insertions that make up the novel are the work of one John Towne, who is also Doctor Wisdom, an advice columnist for a porno magazine, as well as being the black preacher Radio P. King, on the lam in England. The triple-identified Towne's notes are edited by Lee Holmes, a character in a novel by George Garrett. Towne's manuscript bits are intended to form a novel entitled Realms of Gold, which stars a writer-descendant of Horatio Alger named R.C. Alger, who is writing a novel titled America, The Beautiful? Garrett's novel is entitled Life With Kim Novak Is Hell The whole thing is dedicated ""to the memory of Joan Rivers,"" and the publisher offers a cash prize for the best one-liner beginning: ""Joan Rivers? Her memory is so bad that. . ."" Her name might be one of the most useful clues the author throws out. The other is probably the name of Don Pickles, who is identified with George Garrett as a poet. No one is spared. In a frenzied free flow of invective and dirty talk, almost every major American public figure is subjected to verbal mugging. Using presidential candidates, talk-show hosts, starlets and poets for leverage, Garrett turns American morals and mores upside down and desecrates whatever he dissects. The total book could probably be assembled in any order and may be read randomly. The academic memos are a bitterly funny satire of familiar campus types. The letters to Christie Brinkley (40 pp. long), George Wallace (6 lines long), Mrs. John DeLorean and others famous now chiefly for being well known have just that mad-eyed, breathless solemnity that our common sense tells us must motivate the star, assassins out there as well as the fans who dote on their confessions. A brilliant, merciless, shapeless, many-layered, some-splendored kazoo concerto.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1986
Publisher: Stuart Wright--dist. by Small Press Dist. (1814 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702)