A rollicking, entertaining adventure on the open road starring two ferocious youths fueled by booze, pot, and canned spaghetti.
Screenwriter and author LaPoma (Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story, 2015) combines the restlessness of youth with the lure of drugs and dreams in his latest novel about young men desperate to escape the confines of their stagnant lives. This character-driven novel opens not with fanfare or history, but with action and movement. Danny boards his friend Ian’s Toyota Camry for what they hope to be a life-changing cross-country road trip, leaving Buffalo for the West. Having recently graduated college, both rough-and-tumble, music-loving men hit the road without a game plan or a goal or even much money, just their desire to start a band and to “write songs and play them on the streets of the Haight.” The novel is frenetically narrated by Danny, a hyperactive, easily agitated 22-year-old with a history of psychological issues, paranoia, and antagonistic internal voices—not to mention the private pain of his chronic anal fissures, which plays out in a series of panicked, agony-wracked bathroom sequences. They stop in Illinois to visit mutual friend Ricky, and Danny smokes the kind of weed he hopes will stave off his anxiety, knowing that “there was no place I could hide if shit turned bad.” Thankfully, in the glaring absence of real plot points, LaPoma adds back story to flesh out the origins of Danny and Ian’s friendship—Danny’s love for a girl named Delilah and their mutual affinity for music. A stop in Iowa leaves room for more music and marijuana. As they arrive in Colorado amid a haze of parties and drugs, the men’s bickering escalates and becomes more personal. They finally arrive in California, where the party continues from San Francisco down to Los Angeles, and the travelers mingle with “hip sexy people everywhere, all groomed and painted and waxed to perfection.” LaPoma, not seeming to know what to do with his perpetually blitzed, spun-out characters, leaves them in Vegas, where they “smoke…a shitload of pot,” have a quick epiphany, decide to stop running, and head home to reboot their lives.
A slender, fast-paced, fever-dreamed excursion that, despite a lack of plot, becomes undeniably addictive.