OVENMAN by Jeff Parker


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A novel of pizza parlors, skateboarding, tattoos and piercings—needless to say, it’s a portrait of the ’90s.

Narrator When Thinfinger is the eponymous character. He’s a denizen of Florida, lover of Marigold, friend of Blaise and aficionado of skateboards and street bikes, his favorite being a “Haro with the kinky triangular frame.” Although he’s recently lost his job as pit cook at Ken’s Barbie-Q, life is looking up when he finds a position as Ovenman at Piecemeal Pizza By The Slice, a microcosm of the weird subculture When inhabits. This is the kind of place where people are identified by their social or culinary functions rather than by their names—or rather, their function becomes their names: Thin Pie Guy, Pasta Dude, Front Girl, Salad Bitch. Ovenman literally makes notes of things (“Pizza is Power”; “I am Ovenman”) all on post-its that he puts on whatever surface is available, including his body. The plot is episodic: Marigold breaks her back trying a maneuver on a bike (at Ovenman’s behest); Ovenman tries to get away with whatever funds he can embezzle from Piecemeal; Ovenman gets pierced against his will in the most painful place imaginable at Second Skin Piercing; Ovenman seeks out his “biodad” in Ohio for an abortive homecoming. Ovenman tends to simplify life to conform to his self-acknowledged limitations. When he sets a lock combination, for example, it must be 23-3-7 because it’s the only one he can remember. (It spells “beer” on a telephone.) He describes a shirt as having a smell of “total MoonPie wrapper.” In a spasm of insight toward the end of the novel, Ovenman exclaims: “Suddenly I am risking my job, the only real connection I have to anything in this life.” At least here he acknowledges that the stakes are fairly high.

It’s all meant to be self-consciously amusing, but much of the humor is tedious, and quirks stand in for character.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-9776989-2-9
Page count: 264pp
Publisher: Tin House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2007


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