With this audaciously empty mishmash of poems, letters, comics, etc., former child star Culkin (of Home Alone fame) has managed to lower the already low bar set for celebrity fiction.
Culkin’s debut kicks off with a five-question pop quiz meant to weed out any readers not quite up to snuff. Those who fail the quiz, Culkin writes, will not be allowed to go on. Reader, if you know what’s good for you, you will fail the quiz. The book is essentially comprised of a couple hundred pages of semi-coherent diary entries coupled with a handful of scrawled drawings. The story, insofar as one exists, concerns a child star named Monkey-Monkey Boy and a guy, Junior, with no end of father issues. (People magazine readers will recognize autobiographical elements.) Culkin isn’t particularly concerned with narrative and takes no legitimate stabs at structure. He sticks instead with a rag-tag rambling style, tossing out his offerings like scraps on a trash heap—poems piled atop lists piled atop letters, none of it really compelling, and none of it really going anywhere. All the usual typographical tricks—font-size changes, phrases crossed out, blank pages helpfully labeled “blank”—are brought out in a rather unsuccessful attempt to disguise the basic pointlessness of the exercise. Here and there, Culkin manages to string together a few pages of what seem to be passable short stories—the tale of a bathroom tryst at a party, a father and son’s chat after a fight—and at these points the book briefly ascends to the level of mediocrity. Filled with jokes lacking wit, introspection devoid of insight, poetry made of nothing, this is a work frustratingly short on substance.
Makes Ethan Hawke read like Philip Roth.