BRIGHT LIGHTS, MEDIUM-SIZED CITY by Nathan Holic

BRIGHT LIGHTS, MEDIUM-SIZED CITY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A 20-something Florida house-flipper navigates the land mines of young adulthood.

Holic (American Fraternity Man, 2013, etc.) captures the essence of the novel he’s sending up here, Jay McInerny’s Bright Lights, Big City (1984), while transposing it to a more boring place—Orlando, Florida, circa 2009—offering way less cocaine and replacing the Brat Pack vibe with a True West–ish rivalry between brothers who are not nearly as interesting as Sam Shepard's angry siblings or McInerny's 1980s-era stereotypical coke addicts. Constructed as five “books,” which are entangled but not orderly, the novel tracks the arc of 20-something loser Marc. He’s been abandoned by his fiancee, Shelley, as well as his business partner, Edwin, who left him with 10 lousy properties right on the eve of the real estate bubble's bursting. He’s also estranged from his well-meaning but ruthless father. One of the troubling qualities of this novel about a privileged dude is that it's often, well, whiny; Marc is a sad sack whose narrative drama only changes when he’s forced to take in his freeloader bro, Kyle. The first book is constructed as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel, which might or might not resonate with readers but definitely reflects Marc's gloomy existential crisis in which any decision seems like torment. Through all the books, there are endless sequences of Marc, Kyle, and their various friends watching the end of the Orlando Magic’s 2009 NBA season, broken up by odd jolts in style. The third book dives deep into Marc’s childhood, ending with him being assaulted after another drunk, angry night out. The next volume gets even stranger, abandoning Marc’s first-person narration for a series of vignettes from the points of view of Marc’s brother, his friends, the mayor of Orlando, and a long-dead, legendary man named Orlando Reeves, a soldier killed during the Seminole war. It all comes to a head during a friend's wedding, constructed by the narrative as a “Final Exam” for Marc, forcing him to take stock of the decisions he’s made and just what it means to be a “grown-ass man.”

Though punctuated by clever cartoons, it’s still too long and not very funny.

Pub Date: Dec. 10th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-941681-61-9
Page count: 620pp
Publisher: Burrow Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2019