A first novel more focused on phrasing than plot.
The book is a latter-day Gen-X chronicle of Matthew Acciaccatura, a study in being cool during the New York fashion malaise of the mid-1990s. Coming from Jersey, Matt enrolls at NYU. He’s in possession of a checklist of all things cool and uncool (clothes, speech, etc.), but, try as he might, the desperate freshman stumbles at every turn. That is, until he falls for Asian-American student Sophie, a petite marvel whose natural savvy runs more than skin deep. She shows him how to dress and how to be real, all under the enchantment of newfound love. Thus emboldened, Matt soon works his way into the rave scene. Vic, one of New York’s club impresarios, quickly transforms Matt into his alter-ego, Magic, the weed-smoking, X-eating man-in-the-know, geared to roping throngs of newbie students into the underground. Ferrell’s fictional portrait of a fictional slice of New York reality swings with experimental flare, especially in the humorous footnotes and an appendix written by Dr. Hans Mannheim, a prison inmate with whom the narrator consults. The protagonist and prose recall the Richard Fariña/Tom Robbins school of writing; one imagines Ferrell with one hand flipping maniacally through a thesaurus, while the other whisks across the keyboard. Her irreverent literary style leaves little room for candor.
A pyrotechnic debut.