A down-and-out violinist makes the worst of his fall from grace.
Charlie was talented until his union signed him up for a suicide run as opener on the reunion tour of a megalithic metal band. Violently unappreciated by the troglodytic fans—who cared neither for his delicate classical covers of their band’s greatest hits nor for his being a racial mix of African-American and Cambodian—Charlie takes the occasion as his cue to start the slide into bumhood. By the time Egolf (Lord of the Barnyard, 1999) catches up with him, Charlie has already relegated himself to the Desmon Boarding House, where he drinks, occasionally does odd chores at a deli where he receives more harassment than pay, and pals around with Tinsel Greetz, a wannabe-revolutionary. Greetz, who dreams of creating a utopian socialist paradise when he’s not causing teeth-grinding irritation in everyone near him, is the sheer definition of poseur—and a wondrously hilarious satiric caricature. Greetz’s first attempt to create his utopia involves an ill-conceived barter system that quickly gets taken advantage of by a tribe of crusty squatters. Charlie gets sucked into Greetz’s downward spiral of incompetence and rage after the system falls apart, though soon enough Charlie finds his true calling: killing sewer rats for cash-on-the-barrel from the city. The rat passages are truly nauseating and yet, when walking-catastrophe Greetz stumbles onto the scene, also truly amusing. The narrative’s wayward energy sputters and dissipates somewhat after Louise appears and for mysterious reasons gives the men shelter, money, clothes and, in Charlie’s case, dozens of reasons to fall in love. By its very nature, though, this is an uneven piece of work, so to criticize Egolf for not keeping an even tone would be foolish. To quibble about such details in a novel of such bite and raging intellect seems unfair.
Full-tilt madcap antics from a lean and mean fabulist of the first degree.