BEGIN TO EXIT HERE by John Welter

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Humorist Welter's laugh-out-loud first novel looks at the pain of life and the absurdity of journalism through the eyes of a (chronologically) grown-up Holden Caulfield. Kurt Clausen gets by in North Carolina on one-liners and routines; in his company, other people join in the irreverent, wacky mood, but the offbeat humor that makes him initially attractive to women and editors soon palls: Kurt keeps getting fired, and women keep leaving him. He's a vulnerable, brokenhearted, unemployed journalist who's recently acknowledged his alcoholism when he meets Janice. Soon he's deeply in love and in a new job, taking a blithely unconventional approach to the news stories that come his way: a KKK march, a gay police-chief, a kindergarten teacher accused of making a violent threat. Behind the upbeat account of a bright romance and the often hilariously on-target gibes at journalistic practice, it's clear that Kurt is headed for trouble again: he rattles on with goofy humor even when Janice is trying to articulate her confusion about life; his reporting begins to border on the glib and callous. What has seemed like Kurt's poignant and legitimate protest against contemporary values begins to look like the sneering of a troubled outsider, oblivious to the way he reduces all concerns to an amusing game for himself. Welter admirably balances humor with serious feeling, while Kurt--who sees both clearly and not at all--is maddening, lovable, and possibly capable of change.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Algonquin