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A near-unreadable rant from Selby (best known for Last Exit to Brooklyn, 1964) about an anonymous loser who fails to commit suicide and goes on a killing spree to make up for it.

Selby’s failing this time out isn’t his trademark grossness (The Willow Tree, 1998, etc.) as simply self-indulgence. The narrator is an obviously demented character who sounds like Henry Miller on amphetamines (“Country of idiots. It’s not a moral degeneration. A case of becoming amoral. Immorality is tangible. It is a tangible perception of life and the actions needed to beat life at its own game. It is not fuzzy feelgoody. Fundamentalists have a very definite agenda they pursue and it is tangible. Concrete. The boob tube softens the suckers up for them”) and seems to have no one to talk to. He decides to kill himself, but the gunsmith he tries to buy a revolver from is unable to waive the waiting period and he goes home empty-handed. Too bad, too, because instead of getting himself permanently and quickly out of the way, he begins to think things through and concludes that the world would not be better off without him—it’s the other guys who need to be eased off the scene. So he begins to murder enemies of humanity, beginning by poisoning Mr. Barnard, the bureaucrat at the Veteran’s Administration who denied his claim for benefits. Then Jim Kinsey bites the dust—the man who killed two black doctors in the 1960s and was set free by an all-white jury. Still very much in evidence, he’s the guest of honor at an annual barbecue (“Freedom Day”) celebrating his release. There are some goombahs in Little Italy who get bumped off also, but the reader is unlikely to last long enough to care very much about them or the rest of this silly mess.

Tedious, pretentious, awful.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-7145-3071-9
Page count: 155pp
Publisher: Marion Boyars
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2002


FictionFIEND by Peter Stenson
by Peter Stenson