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THE WISHBONES by Tom Perrotta


by Tom Perrotta

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-399-14267-3
Publisher: Putnam

 A funny and charming first novel from the author of a highly acclaimed collection of linked short stories, Bad Haircut (1994). Like its predecessor, Perrotta's agreeably manic chronicle of prolonged adolescence is set in suburban New Jersey. It covers a chaotic six months (MaySeptember 1994) in the life of Dave Raymond, who's 31 and still lives with his parents, works as a freelance driver for a courier service, plays guitar for a local band (the title group), and enjoys a more-or-less committed relationship with Julie Muller, the girl he's been ``with'' since their high school days. When Dave impulsively proposes marriage and Julie eagerly accepts, the looming specters of stability and fidelity severely test Dave's fatigued mettle--as he and his fellow Wishbones endure a series of bittersweet misadventures recounted with irresistible tongue-in-cheek deadpan brio. The novel is brimming with sharply observed secondary characters, including bandmates Buzzy (a happily married alcoholic), Stan (ever morosely unlucky in love), and Ian (who's writing a musical about the assassination of JFK); a former doper turned priest; and Gretchen, the girl with whom Dave happily dallies even as his wedding day draws nearer. Perrotta offers such beguiling set pieces as a wedding at which an elderly band singer dies onstage; a hilariously described poetry reading (where Gretchen performs, and which features ``a philosophical dialogue between Jack Kerouac and Charles Manson. . . [that] turned out to be an excuse to talk really fast and say the word `man' a lot''); and the Wishbones's disastrous gig playing for a group of neo-Nazi survivalist skinheads. Nor does the climactic wedding itself disappoint: It's a wonderfully cacophonous celebration of life during which the tamed Dave ``already. . . feels himself being transformed into a historical figure, frozen into anecdote by his unborn children and grandchildren.'' Pure pleasure. And it'll make a terrific movie.