1983 is like, a bummer, man, in this hazy quasi-comedy about sex, blow and what’s next.
No stranger to the unique strain of adolescent nostalgia for California after her similarly themed debut, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, Blau (Drinking Closer to Home, 2011, etc.) goes over the top, sometimes very uncomfortably, with this druggie blast from the past. Set in the Los Angeles glory days of hair, metal and valley porn, the author designs quite the odd duck to center her gray comedy. When we open on shiftless Berkeley college student/remind-us-yet-one-more-time-she’s-Jewish-biracial-Asian—wait, she has a name, it’s Allie Dodgson. Anyway, the girl is not doing so hot. She loaned a bunch of money to her dreamy boyfriend, who promptly broke up with her. To make ends meet, Allie is working in a crappy dress shop in Oakland with her BFF Beth, snorting coke and trying to avoid the antagonistic penis of her masturbatory employer Jonas. Unfortunately for her, tuition and the rent are both due, and Jonas isn’t giving up her paycheck without a fight. In a fit of pique, Allie swoops up a Wonder Bread bag full of high-octane cocaine, and she’s off on her After Hours-esque misadventure. There are a lot of bad decisions, a lot of poorly made decisions and a lot of kooky characters to keep Allie rolling and tumbling. “I want to go back to school next summer,” Allie says. “I want to stay in Berkeley and graduate with honors. I want to return this car to my friend Beth. I don’t want to be a coke-snorting thief.” There’s a bit of lost-girl syndrome as Allie tries to reconnect with her rock-star mother and her absentee father. But tastes will vary—between the paraplegic porn producer and Allie shagging Billy Idol (seriously), most readers will have made up their minds one way or another.
Meant to be Alice in Wonderland by way of Boogie Nights, the book comes off more like vintage Tarantino performed by HBO’s Girls.