OCTOPUS SUMMER by Malcolm Dorson


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An immature and spoiled prep school student vacillates between the Manhattan club scene and the cocktail soirees of the Long Island elite during one long, bad summer.

This odd duck of a teenage dramedy by banking analyst/debut novelist Dorson draws on his own experience at a similarly preppy academy. The novel’s protagonist is Callum Littlefield, a preening little snot who believes he’s a big fish in the small pond of his boarding school in the Berkshires. We meet him in the midst of his fall from grace, as he’s first reprimanded for underage drinking and then expelled for dealing ditch weed to his smarmy classmates. Virtually abandoned by his emotionally distant father and Xanax-addled mother, Callum is sentenced to spend the summer working at the estate of his equally bizarre grandmother, whom everyone calls “Octopus” for her various leisure activities. There are strange interludes about a mentally ill servant who believes Callum has brought a curse down upon his family, and they don’t really interface well with the drug- and alcohol-fueled adventures that form the core narrative. To create an excuse to get back to the city, Callum joins a creative writing group to which he actually starts applying himself. However, the majority of the book concerns his roving internal monologue in the timeless teenage pursuit of getting high and/or laid. The story tries to give Callum an arc of reversal—there is of course a girl, Layla Semmering, who inspires him to try to be a better guy. Unfortunately, Layla doesn’t have much personality, and a startling denouement is manipulative—a naïve and simultaneously callous trick to pull the rug out from under readers in a novel that doesn’t have that much to recommend it in the first place.

An unnecessary contribution to the growing genre of douche-bag lit.

Pub Date: July 15th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61902-298-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2014


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