A couple of literary legends get turned inside-out, revealing both the passions and the pitfalls of the writing life, in this debut roman à clef, set deep inside the New York publishing demimonde.
It's been seven years since Kyle Clayton made his Brett Easton Ellis–like literary debut at the age of 25, and he hasn’t written a word since. More than just down-and-out, alcoholic Clayton’s first waking image these days is more often the cool toilet bowl he fell asleep clutching, rather than some hot young thing. His fame is diminishing, the advances on his second book have dried up, and his only support is the monthly check—for gigolo services—from a well-preserved literary patroness. Having his own nervous breakdown is 60-ish, impotent Richard Whitehurst, the proverbial writer’s writer whose recent opus, ten years in the making, garnered great critical acclaim before sinking into obscurity and onto the remainder tables. But opposites attract. When the two meet at a PEN party, where Whitehurst verbally attacks a Stephen Spender stand-in and Clayton delivers a Mailer-esque knockdown to a contemporary, sparks fly. They complete each other, and in no time Clayton moves, for the summer, into Whitehurst and his wife Meryl’s Sag Harbor home. Clayton sobers up, the men embark on new novels, and 40-something Meryl, busting out of her brassiere, gardens. Here, the story really takes off as Wenzel lays outs one tension after another. Will Clayton stay sober? What does Whitehurst need from Clayton? Will the Whitehursts’ marriage survive? Wenzel expertly guides the narrative as the characters slide out of control, bringing the summer and the story to a close that is surprising, violent, and disturbing.
Taut, fast-paced work from an author who knows as much about writing fiction as he does about the fiction biz.