Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Three New Funny Debuts

Flatscreen : a novel (M)
by Adam Wilson

*Starred Review* Eli Schwartz at 20: jobless, pudgy, leading an aimless, often drug-addled existence. Into his life comes the larger-than-life Seymour Kahn, an Orson Wells-like, wheelchair-bound former actor. A raconteur and raunchmeister who shares Eli's fondness for drugs, Kahn becomes a kind of reverse role model and failed father figure for Eli, who, in the meantime, is struggling to find, well . . . what? A job? A girlfriend? Love? Longing? Meaning or purpose in his feckless life? Actually he'd settle for some sex, but that's seldom forthcoming, despite his fevered fantasies.

In his first novel, Wilson, editor of The Faster Times, has written an antic, amusing, ribald coming-of-age novel. Though secondary characters seem interchangeable and, frankly, forgettable, Eli himself is a well-rounded (!), endearing though sometimes exasperating protagonist. The author's use of sentence fragments and Eli's occasional stream-of-consciousness ruminations that flicker like images on a flatscreen TV bring a briskness and energy to a novel that otherwise might be mired in Eli's inanition. Despite a veneer of the ironic and snarky, the novel offers a foundation of genuine caring, affection, and yes love. An auspicious debut that promises, in Wilson, a standout addition to a new generation of writers." - Booklist

Treasure Island!!! (M)
by Sara Levine

Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island remains vitally influential. Think treasure maps, the pirate with the wooden leg and a parrot on his shoulder, bad franchise restaurants, and a flotilla of pirate movies. Fiction writers also pay homage. In Lighthousekeeping (2005), Jeanette Winterson puts a spin on Stevenson's classic boy's tale with her hero, Young Silver, an orphaned girl. First-time novelist Levine goes one better by having her unnamed protagonist, a woman in her twenties who is stupendously running amok, seize on Treasure Island as a self-help book. She swears to live by what she discerns as the book's core values, namely boldness, resolution, independence, and horn-blowing.

Her Treasure Island obsession engenders wildly disastrous and hilarious predicaments as she wreaks havoc at her place of tenuous employment, the Pet Library; acquires a cranky parrot; alienates her boyfriend; and moves back in with her parents and sister, a lonely third-grade teacher. Levine's desperate, mean, scamming, dangerously narcissistic, and sinking-fast protagonist ends up outing family secrets, committing a despicable crime, and generally terrorizing everyone, herself included. Levine marshals a swashbuckling and mordant imagination, tonic irony, cunning humor, and standup-comic timing to create one supersmart, topsy-turvy chick-lit satire." - Booklist

Charlotte Street (M)
by Danny Wallace

"It all starts with a girl . . . because yes, there’s always a girl. Jason Priestley (not that one) has just seen her. They shared an incredible, brief, fleeting moment of deep possibility, somewhere halfway down Charlotte Street. And then, just like that, she was gone—accidentally leaving him holding her old-fashioned disposable camera, chock full of undeveloped photos. And now Jason—ex-teacher, ex-boyfriend, part-time writer and reluctant hero—faces a dilemma. Should he try to track The Girl down? What if she’s The One? But that would mean using the only clues he has, which lie untouched in the beaten-up camera." - Publisher

“A moving, funny, all-too-relatable story of boy seeking girl, with some gripping twists and turns…. Unmissable…. Will have you laughing out loud and melt your heart, all at once.” - Cosmopolitan

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