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SOCK by Penn Jillette

SOCK

By Penn Jillette

Pub Date: July 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-32805-2
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Debut solo novel by magician Jillette, half of the Penn-Teller team that has published three nonfiction works (Penn and Teller’s Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends, etc., not reviewed).

The narrator is Dickie, a sock monkey owned by the Little Fool, Clayton Fraser Benz, a six-feet-four police officer who is part of a dive team and spends his working hours in a rubber suit searching through sewage and river water. That is already far more interesting that Sock’s telling of the first ten pages, which are dreadfully dull. This sock monkey chatters about everything, tirelessly, exhaustingly, mind-numbingly. Then the monkey prose lifts and the detail gets dreadfully gripping. “You don’t find many dead people with two-inch visibility. So, he felt for dead people. I feel dead people. Feel me. Touch me.” And these decomposing dead people are ones you’d rather not see. The crime: Little Fool dredges Nell (Helen Cynthia Parenteau) out of the river. She’s a former stripper and law student he used to have heavy sex with in law school. Stabbed repeatedly, she looks punctured by a baseball bat, but was dead, he knows, before thrown into the river. Long before they split up, Nell had led him into the ministrations of her pedicurist, a drag queen named Tommy who spent his last three teenage years as a woman before becoming a gay man. Throughout the story, Sock monkey and Little Fool offer long, well-written, truthful/cynical digressions on death, Disney, and Ding Dongs that only half-relate to the plot and that many will skim. Tommy is the great gossip through whom Little Fool hopes to find Nell’s killer, since Tommy can name all of Nell’s later boyfriends. So they partner up. Since the novel is something of a philosophical sex/murder whodunit, as more victims arise, the question becomes: Who kills people at the exact moment they start thinking about literature?

Originality plus. But a hard read.