Short, manic, experimental first novel from the author of the story collection Out of Work (1993).
``All this talk--this language--what is it but air?'' asks Wolf, a character who seems to be loosely modeled after Hamlet, and whose conceit informs every compressed, disjointed scene of Mulcahy's underdeveloped tale. What there is of a story begins with Wayne, a drifter who appeals to his brother, Bob, an obsessive physician, to take him in while he looks for work. Wayne does find work as a clerk in a gun shop; his brother dies. Wolf then emerges as the major character, using his father's assets to buy the gun store and then turning it, overnight, into a chain of franchises; meanwhile, Wayne marries his sister-in-law, Colleen. Colleen, given to long, nostalgic soliloquies that are like parodies of remembrances in other novels, is the most nearly convincing character here, but even so it's impossible to tell what motivates her. There are other walk-on figures: two prostitutes, a performing dog named Sponge Boy, and an ex-cowboy, Bill. Bill tells a story that is, in part, quite ingenious: A modern cowboy, seasoned by the outdoor life, grimly saddles up to chase rustlers who then disappear in a helicopter. He tracks the helicopter, follows a truck that leads to a slaughterhouse, follows the meat to a grocery. But after this, the story, which could have been a marvelous commentary on how corporate technology renders older, simpler values meaningless, fizzles into nothing--into the ``air'' of postmodernism. Shortly, Wolf's strange financial empire collapses and his mother absconds with what's left of her husband's fortune. Wolf handcuffs Wayne, sets fire to his house, and leaves too, hoping to collect on Wayne's life insurance.
Mulcahy is often clever and funny. But he never fleshes out any of his conceits, as if they weren't worth the bother. Readers will concur.