In this debut novel, a New York adman grows tired of the fast life and dreams of escape.
Billy Boyd Salinger is a junior account executive at a Manhattan advertising agency. In the book’s opening pages, he receives a promotion to manage a new account with the makers of E-Z Lax, a popular laxative. Billy experiences another life change when he moves into his friend Addison’s apartment, a penthouse owned by his pal’s father. Addison likes drugs, booze, and sex, and so does Billy. Addison is a hard partier, a daddy’s boy, a casual racist, and a lech. Billy’s no better. He’s superficial and brand- and status-obsessed. When he hits on a 16-year-old, he defends himself by observing that the girl “looks buxom enough to be twenty-six.” While listening to a female co-worker, he imagines sticking his “tongue down her throat.” But the colleague, who looks like a model and is coincidentally named Kate Moss, asks him out. Later, when Billy sleeps with his friend Lorraine, a former model, the scene ends with his observation: “I squirt my load and am ravenous.” These episodes are pornographic and violent, with acts done “savagely.” Wilson’s writing is at its best when Billy assesses an expensive object, like Addison’s TV, a “Sony 70-inch Qualia 006 High Definition Television,” or one of the penthouse’s beds, a “hand-carved baroque sleigh bed.” These details do double duty, filling the novel with specificity and revealing Billy’s obsession with material goods. Along the way, the author tries to present Billy as a good guy. But the tale delights in the protagonist’s sexual escapades and eagerly celebrates the behavior of chauvinists. Billy never gets his comeuppance. In addition, the sloppy prose does the book no favors. It’s full of redundant lists, heaps of digressive information, inconsistencies (“craigslist.com” and “Craig’s list”; “E-Z Lax” and “EZ-LAX”), and the occasional malapropism: “I step off the elevator and am immediately impounded by loud music.”
A contrarian tale that revels in outmoded notions of masculinity and professional success.