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MR. BREAKFAST by Jonathan Carroll Kirkus Star


by Jonathan Carroll

Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-61219-992-4
Publisher: Melville House

A magic tattoo enables a failed comic who will become a famous street photographer to choose from three different lives.

As inconsistent as Graham Patterson is at comedy, he earns the devotion of Ruth Murphy, an ardent fan who becomes his romantic partner. But she wants to have children, he is pretty sure he doesn't, and ne'er their twain will meet. While driving across the country searching for answers following their sad breakup, he stops at a tattoo parlor in North Carolina. The female proprietor's designs so knock him out, he impulsively gets an odd chain-of-life tat. By touching it while uttering a code word, he can move back and forth among alternative lives—the one he is living, one that takes him back to the past, and one in which he is Ruth's husband and the father of their children—before deciding which one he wants to remain in. His greatest hope is that these special powers will allow him for the first time “to create from the middle of [his] soul.” After the tattoo artist enthuses about the photos he has taken to document his road trip, he dedicates himself to photography. But acts of violence, illnesses, and sudden deaths are in store in his parallel lives, ultimately leading to his disappearance. He leaves behind a set of photos that only certain people can see, including a manipulated shot of Mr. Breakfast, a long-shuttered roadside diner that eerily comes back to life. Among Carroll's novels, including the fabulous The Land of Laughs (1980), this is one of his most elusive—the narratives overlap and interact with a slippery interior logic. The new novel also may be his most lyrical. Few recent works of fiction in any genre have touched on the vagaries of life, love, and art more movingly or with deeper understanding.

An intoxicating, deeply affecting novel by the influential fantasist.