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The farcical but stubbornly unfunny adventures of post-adolescent narrator Rich Redstone--who pursues Love and Life's Meaning through the sort of cutesy/pretentious vignettes that were so popular in late-'60s/early-'70s fiction. Disillusioned by a cynical college prof, Rich abandons plans for a literary/academic career, taking a series of odd jobs in Manhattan. He tries selling brushes, with pep talks from the sales manager (""You will get the terminal cancer patient's signature for membership in our Brush of the Month Club"")--and meets a madwoman whose walls are covered with brushes. He gets crass advice from a thumb-sucking, prematurely old personnel whiz. He works, alongside a legendary pornographer named ""*&?#,"" for a customized book-writing service run by identical twin spinsters who hate each other. (Rich's project: the hagiographic biography of a Latin American dictator.) Meanwhile, of course, Rich is also looking for sex, love, and living accommodations: he shacks up with ambitious old chum Laurie in her Soho loft for a while (her equally materialistic boyfriend is career-climbing in California); he pretends to be an ex-con in order to live at a halfway house run by Judge and Mrs. Goldfish, sleeping with their daughter Debs (who belongs to HAH--""Humans Against Herpes""); led on by a story from a fortune-teller, he wanders the streets looking for his fated True Love. And, throughout, there are semi-mystical encounters with a character who advises Rich that his only occupation should be ""being and watching."" In his uneven first novel, Domestic Tranquillity (1981), Cohen showed a talent for acute, warm observation of contemporary life. Despite an occasional good line or inventive bit of shtick, this second novel seems like a distinct step backward: shapeless, obvious (in the satiric views of oh-so-crass materialism), and frequently sophomoric.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1983
Publisher: Seaview/Putnam