JOYRIDE by Gordon Chaplin


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A spree-like junket from Bangkok to Saigon: that's the vague aim of two extremely bored 1969-vintage American teenagers named Jones and Jimmy Dee. Sons of US government personnel, civilian and military, the boys have gotten tired of Thailand's exotic pleasures, you see--so they itch for travel. Getting across borders and keeping all-but-invisible while doing so is the problem, however. And amorality turns out to be the solution--whether it's insulting a lady tourist at Angkor War, mugging a pregnant woman in Phnom Penh, stealing a motorcycle and a car, slipping out of a kinky woman-magician's scenario, or slipping free of the noose of US/parental capture at the end. Unfortunately, however, first-novelist Chaplin has none of the light, shrewd touches that might have made this ugly little lark into something like a mix of Huck Finn and Jean Genet. And what he offers instead is a Kerouac-ian road book that has Indochina sliding past in the background, but with little evocation of local or historical or even exotic color. Adolescent-vague prose, an overdone sexual sub-theme (everyone's assumption that Jimmy Dee and Jones are lovers), a confused, amateurish finale: a tiny yet interminable novel--unenhanced by the obvious Vietnam/violence parallels to the lads' alienated delinquency.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1982
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan