STILL LIVES by Scott Sommer


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An occasionally amusing story of a down-in-the-dumps New York photographer with dingbat friends--a high-strung but, finally, cluttered-with-too-much-sitcom tale from the ever-promising Sommer (Hazzard's Head, 1985; Last Resort, 1982; etc.). Thom Frankle not only loses his job at Concupiscence magazine--he also loses his actress girlfriend Monica Webb to her leading man in the soaps. One of Frankle's friends, writer/vet Harry Chambers, is suicidal when he can't get his book published ("I was willing to die for my country. Similarly, I'm willing to die, you know, for my career"). Another, Stanley Stark--an environmental lawyer trying to get a reconciliation with his wife--begins to carry weapons, suspecting a hit from polluters. Meanwhile, Frankle free-lances (instances galore), plays a guileful game of musical chairs with Monica (who wants him back), and hears voices in his head quoting Scripture: "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." He also meets Constance Frame, a widow with a seven-year-old son, and here the book turns ever more absurd and frantic: the ensuing slapstick is sometimes amusing, sometimes awfully written (". . .as Frankle was familiar with the fashionable psychology of blame, he knew that lurking behind his troubles with Monica Webb were far more inveterate conflicts with his progenitors"). Constance and Frankle have an affair, and, after a spell in California, she returns lo proclaim her love. At the same time, a madcap subplot involving Stark and Chambers reaches its climax when Stark, trying to shoot Chambers, shoots Frankle instead, whereupon Chambers smashes in Stark's skull with a facsimile M-16. (Don't ask.) Frankle, recovered, marries Constance and moves to California, with "the courage to live compassionately from one ordinary day to the next." The book skims lightly, then, but still leaves a sweet aftertaste in the mouth: some satire that bites, some spirituality that goes down easy.

ISBN: 670-82581-6
Publisher: Viking
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