BOUND IN SHELLS by Richard Osborne


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An amateurish, banal first novel about Broadway stage-manager and would-be actor Pat Sullivan--who's whiningly going through some sort of identity crisis involving his ""manliness"" and his dedication to the ideals of the 1960s. This crisis is brought to a head when, first, Pat witnesses a street crime and is appalled to find himself welcoming the arrival of the cops (""The incident was bogglingly self-revelatory"") and then when, in court to testify, he meets old college chum Payton Miller--a well-born lawyer with a rich wife (promiscuous, druggy) and nice clothes: ""The more he compared himself to Payton, the lower fell his level of self-esteem. Had life started passing him by?"" On the other hand, ""The whole society was perverse! . . . Everywhere he looked he saw adulteration, mendacity! . . . He was glad he wasn't like Payton."" Time out, then, for a flashback (less pretentious, more readable) to college days down South--sex and fraternity life, with Payton's future wife sleeping around, Payton being vile, and Pat being mostly noble. But when we return to the present, moaning Pat is still at it (""He didn't go to fashionable discos. . . he didn't even like cocaine that much!""), now with two new crosses to bear: pianist-girlfriend May wants a child; and good friend Jack is revealed to be ""a fucking fag,"" and this ""proved very troubling to Patrick's already shaky sense of himself."" Plus: Payton has died of electrocution in the shower--and Pat is convinced (rightly) that Payton's wife is a murderess. ""He was too depressed to roll a joint. He was too down to drink a beer."" Then May walks out, forcing Pat to meditate: ""Half of him leaned toward May's comedic visions of tomorrow: the pair of them extending their joy forever, replicating and disseminating it through a family, as humankind had been trying to do since it came down from the trees. And half of him was haunted by the specter of tragedy. . . ."" But finally, after reading a wonderful new off-Broadway play, Pat finds the answer: ""Only one thing to say yes to, for as long as you can, he thought--love, that which says yes itself, that which is yes, is affirmation."" Sincere--painfully so--but jaw-droppingiy bad and truly embarrassing.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1980
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Harper & Row