FAT BALD JEFF by Leslie Stella


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Newcomer Stella, founder of the Chicago ’zine Lumpen, creates a slacker hell and a disgruntled, wisecracking protagonist who rages successfully against the machine.

Obsessed with digestion, fashion, and the good life, 26-year-old Chicagoan Addie Prewitt is forced to settle for tofurkey sandwiches, grubby vintage outfits, and a crummy apartment, which is all she can afford on her poorly paid job editing boring copy for the National Association of Libraries. She has a dreary, stingy suitor, Martin Lemming, with whom she exchanges sexual favors for nights on the town. (“I would not like to announce what I endured to get dinner at the Pump Room and a musical at the Shubert.”) Although Addie wonders “How could I have a future with a man named Lemming?,” she still hopes Martin will pop the question, since “he’s the richest man I’ve ever known.” The offspring of hippie parents who fed her kelp and sand, dressed her in grotty overalls, and home-schooled her in a Volkswagen bus while they toured the country selling homeopathic remedies in search of a commune, Addie is a born-again curmudgeon. Everything drives her to distraction: the elderly, public transportation, work in general and her boss, Coddles, in particular. Her roommate, Val Wayne Newton, is her only friend—until, in an act of rebellion against her employer, Addie vandalizes her computer with an X-Acto knife and a candy bar. The techie who comes to repair it, affectionately known as Fat Bald Jeff (for obvious reasons), applauds her complete disregard for authority and lack of respect for property; they bond in an effort to disrupt their workplace, where “the bigwigs were as corrupt as television evangelists.” Addie may rail against her parents, but she’s learned their lessons well. Once she stops raving and starts acting, her life takes on purpose and meaning with a contagious vibrancy.

More convincing as a stand-up comedy routine than a novel, but nonetheless a hilarious send-up of hippies and hipsters.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8021-3772-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2001


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