On the Beach by Steve Schmale

On the Beach

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In this novel set in mid-1990s, small-town coastal California, an aimless young man drinks, does drugs, watches TV and hangs out with his buddies.

Lenny Decker has settled into a low-expectations kind of life. Accomplishments include thoroughly cleaning his bong, watching an entire season of Dallas “every Monday through Friday morning for six weeks,” and lately, eating and showering “regularly, if not frequently.” Lenny once showed promise as a pro golfer, but something happened on a trip to play in Japan; ever since, he’s led a man-child existence, staying rent-free in a cabin won in a card game by his grandfather, burning his savings, and playing pickup basketball for “personal pride and local recognition.” But Lenny isn’t necessarily enjoying it. As he tells a drinking buddy: “I mean nothing feels better than hitting a twenty-footer nothing but net, or scooping up a hard one-hopper right in the palm of your glove, or smacking a line drive so hard the infielders freeze….But all those moments of joy they are just…they’re just fleeting moments of ecstasy.” His regrets are mounting, too: “But now a fuck-up, a fuck-up is a different story….A fuck-up could probably stay with you just about forever.” Through the course of this novel, Lenny goes to a few parties, drinks a lot, rolls many doobies, and courts a beautiful, long-legged young woman, all of which brings him to a decision about continuing down the path of slackerdom. Schmale (Nobody Bats a Thousand, 2012) skillfully portrays the atmosphere of a sleepy beach town with its barflies, surfers and tourists. He also convincingly delineates the rationalizations, excuses and habits of wake and bakers: “As he blew out a thick cloud of [marijuana] smoke…Decker felt sure he wasn’t really lying to himself, he was merely delaying his rendezvous with the truth.” Not much happens, sure, but Decker’s interior state is appealingly rendered.

A thoughtful, laid-back novel about getting into and out of a rut.
Pub Date: April 2nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-1495347481
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2014


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