Whom the gods would destroy, they would not only make mad but also molest, punish and celebrate, all in a day’s work.
The latest from Leyner (The Tetherballs of Bougainville, 2008, etc.) concerns itself with the lives, resentments, obsessions and childish rapprochements of the Gods. No, not That One, but a motley collection of drunken deities ensconced in the world’s tallest buildings, tapping mortal beauties and mainlining a drug called Gravy. Leyner immediately launches into a long introduction punctuated with asides like “Why Do Gods Like Having Sex With Humans So Much?” This stream-of-consciousness–laden gospel gradually reveals that the book itself is the eternal story of Ike Karton, a 48-year-old, anti-Semitic everyman from New Jersey (“Ike always keeps it simple and sexy,” echo the drug-addled bards who serve as the book’s Greek chorus). The story has been passed down and modified throughout history in a celebrity-riddled oral tradition that falls somewhere on the narrative scale between The Odyssey and TMZ. Alternately called “Ike’s Agony” and “T.G.I.F.” (not what you think), the story relates Ike’s travails and the mischief delivered upon him by the gods. The worst may well be El Cucho, largely called XOXO here, who is revealed to be "trying to ruin it by making it too confusing, by creating insoluble contradictions and conundrums, by essentially tying the shoelaces of the book together.” You, the reader, can help preserve the narrative’s integrity by chanting “Ike, Ike, Ike, Ike, Ike,” in the manner of either Popeye laughing or Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” Yes, really. There’s nothing quite like Leyner on a roll.
Anyone who’s still with us by now should embrace this earnest exploitation of the myths of the new world, complete with celebrity cameos.