AMERICAN LOONY by Jack Murphy

AMERICAN LOONY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The picaresque adventures of a young man oddly blessed by nature.

Murphy’s uproarious fiction debut centers on the improbable character of Manas, whom readers meet on the occasion of his birth, being very comfortable in his mother Shadow’s womb and perhaps hesitating since he senses that his father, Walter, is a thuggish, violent brute whose acquaintance he’d rather not make. Manas is Shadow’s first child since her stay in a mental hospital, and even while he’s still a baby, it becomes obvious that he has a rather distinctive physical attribute: a freakishly large male member. “[T]he nurses at the pediatrician’s offices were always present, watching in silence, each time he was brought in for a check-up.” And it’s getting bigger with every passing year. The boy’s father wastes no time in trying to profit from this bounty, but once Manas graduates high school, he runs away to join the circus, where he’s befriended by fellow freaks, including a dwarf named Baby Deadly who tries to dissuade Manas from seeing his enormous member as a curse. “I see it as an astounding gift,” she tells him, “a blessing of Nature bestowed upon you and you alone. We must segue you from a negative paradigm to a more positive one.” Manas and his coterie eventually encounter a wildly inventive cast of eccentric characters, including the ancient Nathaniel Totem Vary—whose Out-of-Context Word-of-God Bible strings together all the portions of the Bible dealing with sex, beatings and murder—and Leander Basalt, the phlegmatic traveling salesman who sells Vary’s book. The novel’s exuberant dialogue and quick pacing perfectly match the sardonic tone Murphy adopts throughout. That tone can be brutal, and the comedy is often sharp and dark, reminiscent of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980). Yet the nihilism is much closer to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997), clearly the novel’s progenitor when it comes to Manas and his miraculous endowment. Murphy brings the whole thing to a frenzied, bitterly funny climax in which, among other things, some poetic justice is meted out to loutish Walter.

A raucous comedy about a hapless, well-endowed innocent.

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4327-9931-1
Page count: 278pp
Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2014