Cumber offers an absurdist debut novel about one man’s descent into madness.
Thirty-nine-year-old Steve “Cum” Cumber, seeks an end to his chronically itchy skin; he sometimes imagines that his ailment is caused by microscopic bugs crawling over his body. He visits the office of a renowned dermatologist, who issues him a prescription for something called Maxo 387, and Steve admits that he doesn’t know what it is. After the medication takes effect, though, he feels “a mind bending force many times stronger than my ability to resist it,” and soon, he find himself purchasing cigarettes and stealing sunglasses: “think of me as just another spineless, back stabbing, bottom dwelling, scum sucking, ass kissing, litterbug of a schmo,” he says to readers. The novel then takes readers on a grand, rambling tour of Steve’s life, including his town house in Jersey City, his Porsche (“that’s right, a Porsche, don’t be a hater”), and his complicated, often sexually frustrating relationship with a woman named Murphy. Throw in Steve’s Jersey City posse, named “Moe, Larry and Curly, just like the Three Stooges,” and his strange relationship with a pop star, and it becomes one loopy tour. Other topics include Steve’s woes in the real estate business (including colleagues who amount to “a sad collection of losers, unemployables, mental patients, frustrated housewives”) and his dispersed family members, such as his sister, who’s “all too incredibly driven to succeed.” Overall, there’s certainly a lot of Steve in this novel for readers to take in. Its humor is frequently off-color (the less said about Steve’s “whistling dick,” the better) and it gets increasingly erratic as it goes on: “Arrived New York City and began to walk the mean streets, got lost, I was cold, hungry, had no money, and had never been happier,” he says, late in the tale. Ultimately, it’s a book that’s as bizarre as its title (which refers to an event later in the book) would suggest. Whether readers will find its offbeat events enticing rests on their tolerance for run-on sentences and a protagonist who calls his garage door opener his “second favorite toy.”
A humorous, scatterbrained narrative that moves forward with the intensity of a man bent on his own unraveling.