The messy inner life of a thoroughly (but not murderously) disturbed postal employee is explored in the detail so loved by Richard Ford and J.D. Salinger.
What is it about upstate New York? Surely, somewhere there are happy people living lives better than the vision of Joyce Carol Oates? Yes? Maybe not. The latest lugubrious wacko upstater to self-destruct under the microscope of a wry, gifted, but terminally pessimistic writer (The Light of Falling Stars, 1997, etc.) is late-boomer Albert Lippincott, child of world-class dysfunction, Dad a minor Princeton scientist, Mom a nymphomaniacal would-be torch singer, Sis a future very minor actress willing to strut her naked stuff in front of the brother she knows to be hiding under the bed. Albert’s brilliant college career ended PDQ when, in the grip of an ecstatic understanding of the unifying theory of the universe, he attacked his excessively irritating, self-important, best-selling French physics professor and tried to bite his eyeball in the middle of a lecture. A brief stay in the loony bin led to gloomy romance and marriage with a psychiatric nurse and a job with the United States Postal Service (still just the P.O. at that time). It’s been pretty much downhill ever since, until, at the turn of the century, divorced, living alone except for the crazed housecats bequeathed by a late girlfriend, Albert has succumbed to the unforgivable temptation of opening and reading the mail on his route. (The first letter opened was to the odious Professeur Renault.) Sometimes he even answers the letters. But the latest purloined correspondence has made unusual problems. Ripped in the opening, a hand-decorated envelope has proven impossible to reproduce, and its failure to arrive may have resulted in the suicide of its intended recipient, an artist even more cheerless than Albert. And now, as the postal inspectors close in on him, Albert’s got this nasty lump growing on his chest.
Sardonic fun for the young and pierced. Exhausting for the aged and experienced.