A picaresque treat, here’s the tale of a bittersweet cookie from Kankakee all hot for New York City. Will the Big Apple feed her fantasies or have her for lunch?
Having caught her tree-surgeon boyfriend in flagrante delicto not with a real-life squeeze but a plastic vagina (!), Michelle reckons she’s ripe for a re-think—of life, love-life, the whole shebang. “You think too much,” he tells her. And so, remorselessly, she proceeds to—throughout all the pages of this chuckler. For while action abounds, it’s the running commentary that runs this show: Seinfeld-style making-much-about-everything, occasionally with a social-satire edge—the heroine, for example, typecasting the All-American Job as “typing, selling insurance, or otherwise staring at a monitor.” Speaking of which, when she flees heartland humdrum, she hits Gotham without one—a job, that is. So, plucky as are all headstrong distaff protags from the Victorians on, she improvises—and develops a scam selling courtesy tickets to the Letterman show. The requisite find-an-apartment bit is handled with a sweetly weirdo touch, as Michelle lands a berth with an oldster who charges cheap, so long as Michelle bathes her and suffers her singing of “zany Norwegian songs.” Mishaps mount up—she crashes her car trying to sell it to a perplexed Chinese family, gets busted by Letterman staffers, loses her digs to a freak conflagration. Not much sex in the city for Michelle, either, as any budding romance wilts. Yet she gets savvier, more self-acceptingly self-aware—for instance, despite near-smothering under black-clad bohos, she realizes she’s cool with the fact that “I prefer clothes that cover my navel, and songs by Phil Collins can still make me cry.” As the novel speeds toward conclusion, however, something odd happens.
Wisniewski (Confessions of a Polish Used Car Salesman, 1997, etc.) eventually careens out of laugh-land and places the reader in an atmosphere bleak, violent and very dark. It doesn’t quite work. Still, this is one smart hoot.