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Sunday, January 25, 2015

"The Map and the Territory" by Michel Houellebecq

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 20


Here’s my review of The Map and the Territory by contemporary French novelist Michel Houellebecq.

This author is unabashedly and unashamedly literary and intellectual. Those of us on this side of the pond who fret about novels and commercialism and fads and attention spans and the general lack of receptiveness for ideas can only envy the opportunity to wax philosophical and not only get away with it, but also actually sell books.

This is the story of a fine artist, Jed Martin, and the rationale behind various distinct phases of his work. It is also a police procedural about a ghastly murder. One connection is that the murder was performed in such a way as to create a work of art. This second story has very little to do with the main plot line of Jed's work life. Jed's difficult relationship with his aging master-architect father is a subplot upon which many heady sub-themes are hung, including the history and philosophy of architecture, the relationship between habitation and quality of life, and no less than the fate of civilization.

In perhaps the most stunning stroke of hubris in a work chockfull of it, occurring some way into the narrative so it's a surprise when it comes, Houellebecq makes himself a principal character. By name. The relationship between life and art is open to question - that is, between the physical description of the French novelist, his eccentricities, and his volatile temperament. The Houellebecq in the narrative is not what you'd call a nice person – and certainly not someone you'd probably consider taking on as a friend. The author seems proud he's alienating you, else why talk so unashamedly of his body odor and atrocious manners?

Main character Martin's life is well-to-do Parisian, but mundane. He has an extended affair, off and on, with a Russian media executive named Olga. She is one hot babe, apparently, but even she can't hold his interest. She did abandon him for a time, and perhaps an infantile ego can never forgive the ultimate insult of abandonment.

I'm somewhat mystified. I may reread it someday to study what I missed on first reading, which is probably a lot. I do know that, based on his descriptions of Martin’s paintings, I’d love to see them. I expect they would be photorealistic and iconic – like the old Chinese Communist propaganda posters. One of the delights of the book is imagining what these fictional works would look like.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My recent novel is Mr. Ballpoint, about an outrageous huckster and his mild mannered son, whose marketing of the first ballpoint pen triggered the wacky Pen Wars of 1945. It’s a humorous tale about the joys of entrepreneurship, and the bad guys don’t bite the dirt – they drown in their own red ink. Mr. Ballpoint, capitalism can be fun. Oh, and be sure to catch these podcasts on BoychikLit.com.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"An Object of Beauty" by Steve Martin

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 19

Here’s my book review of An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin.

You may already know that actor-comedian Steve Martin not only writes gags and skits, but also screenplays, plays, and several books. (He’s also a talented five-string banjo player!) An Object of Beauty is a humorous novel about a scheming young woman making her way in the aristo world of New York art galleries. Oh, and you can add art connoisseur, historian, and collector to Martin’s credentials. He has his own multimillion-dollar private collection, so researching this book probably took little more effort than looking around the walls of his home and remembering details of those transactions.

Main character Lacey Yeager is a looker with brains who has no qualms about sleeping her way to the top of the art-world rat heap. She is sexy, clever, manipulative, shameless, and almost totally heedless. And in this story she goes from being a newbie intern to proprietor of her own trendy gallery. And along the way she goes through boyfriends almost as often as the Manhattan fashion trends shift. There’s the serious, caring metrosexual journalist, a gallery owner or two, a pop artist, a rich playboy broker who may be a scammer, and an FBI agent.

You’ll learn a lot about art – how it’s made, how it’s valued, and what’s in and what’s out. Lacey is one of those characters whose outrageous attitudes don’t fail to fascinate. She’ll hold your attention and keep you guessing what clever ploy she’ll try next. But, oddly enough for a book so well crafted, there are several major plot threads that simply go nowhere or are resolved in uninteresting ways. Did Martin get bored with them? Or did he decide those yarns would be too much of a hassle to spin out or explain? Or is he somehow saying – that’s life – that situation you’re worried about might not turn out as you expect – in fact, it might not go anywhere at all!

For example, I’m dying to know whether there’s a Rembrandt under that Russian painting. So if you happen to run into Steve in the grocery store, please ask him for me.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. I wrote The Misadventures of Rollo Hemphill, about a young man on the make in Hollywood, who keeps failing upward. Young men will identify, mature men will sympathize, and women of any age won’t help giggling at male foolishness. And for reviews of other books you can put on your list, check out these podcasts at boychiklit.com.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"The Long Lavender Look" by John D. MacDonald

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 18


Here’s my book review of The Long Lavender Look by John D. MacDonald.

Time was, I was a big fan of MacDonald (he was still alive then). I believe I read all of his Travis McGee books, of which this is one. Each has a color in the title. The power of this mystery series is in the genre and the attitude – dirty dealings and benign cynicism.

Trav lives on a houseboat he won in a poker game in Fort Lauderdale. He’s a salvage expert – he goes after missing boats, money, or wives. He always keeps half of whatever he finds. The baddest guys try to stop him, because they covet the same things.

Trav is a very 'Sixties hero, with parallels to James Bond. Like Bond, McGee is a garbage-collector of the vile detritus left behind by the world's evil geniuses and idiotic criminals. And also like Bond, Trav treats women badly and assumes they like it. And, as in the Bond stories, the beautiful women he loves too much end up dead, usually horribly so, at the hands of the elusive monster-du-jour. Revenge then adds to his justification for giving back as bad as his girlie got, or worse.

As an education in the underside of Florida real-estate schemes and political corruption, MacDonald's books are fascinating, unexpected discoveries. You also get a strong dose of macroeconomic theory anytime McGee engages his neighbor Meyer Meyer to help him understand the intricacies of bribing politicians or laundering money.

But what strikes me as I pick up this book again is the depth of the cruelty MacDonald conjures. It's really ugly, voyeuristic, more shocking than the scummiest story in today's news. But if it thrills you to see powerful bad guys bite the dirt, Travis McGee is your man.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My recent book for male audiences is Mr. Ballpoint, about an outrageous huckster and his mild mannered son, whose marketing of the first ballpoint pen triggered the wacky Pen Wars of 1945. It’s a humorous tale about the joys of entrepreneurship, and the bad guys don’t bite the dirt – they drown in their own red ink. Mr. Ballpoint, capitalism can be fun. Oh, and be sure to catch these podcasts on BoychikLit.com.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"A Good Year" by Peter Mayle

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 17


As we think back over the pleasures and pain of the past year, here’s my review of A Good Year by Peter Mayle.
A bored, urbane London career man inherits a rundown vineyard in the Bordeaux region of France. Fortunately, he speaks fluent French and doesn't act so English as to be spurned by the locals. His predictable romantic adventures with bucolic hotties are not graphic at all, but the descriptions of his meals at the local bistro border on the pornographic. If reading about artfully prepared food and incredible wines get you excited, this is your book.
The wine, of course, is a topic of infinite variety. I’m familiar with rhapsodic descriptions including tastes of chocolate, berry, and oak, but this is the first time I saw "dirty socks" mentioned in connection with the taste of wine.
There's a bit of a crime story here, nothing so stressful as to inspire a Hollywood blockbuster. Unanswered questions about the history and lore of this French farming community may pique your interest, like an appetizer course, or what the French call an amuse bouche, a tasty morsel to tease the mouth.
The mystery is not much of a crime. The most violent act involves spitting into a crachoir (a spittoon for wine tasters), which as the Brits might say is a bloody shame, especially if the wine contains just the right hint of dirty sock.
But if in the midst of winter, you’re tempted to escape to the south of France, reading The Good Year is a quick and inexpensive vacation.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. As a holiday gift to my readers, LaPuerta Books has released all three of The Rollo Hemphill Misadventures in one Kindle ebook for just 99 cents. These are the wacky stories of a young man failing upward in a series of three novels: My Inflatable Friend, Rubber Babes, and Farnsworth’s Revenge. Young men will identify, mature men will sympathize, and women of any age will delight in seeing poor Rollo go splat. That’s The Misadventures of Rollo Hemphill on Amazon Kindle. It’s priced at less than a buck for a limited time. You can catch these podcasts on Boychik Lit.com.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 Boychik Lit Book Awards - Great Gifts!

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 16


Just in time for your holiday book shopping, here are the Boychik Lit Book Awards for 2014. These are books by authors I know personally and who have given me the generous gift of their time, attention, and suggestions. So, grab a ballpoint because you’ll want to add these to your list and check 'em twice:
  • In the category of mystery and crime fiction, For Whom the Shofar Blows: A Rabbi Ben Mystery by Marvin J. Wolf. Get this one for fans of Walter Mosley and Michael Connelly.
  • For mind-bending short stories with a metaphysical twist, it’s Meeting God or Something Like It by Morrie Ruvinsky. Just the brain food for a train ride or while waiting at the airline gate.
  • My kudos for outstanding family relationship drama go to Black Cow by Magdalena Ball. A dysfunctional family from an upscale suburb in Australia moves to a farm and tries to build a new life. And you thought you had problems.
  • For historical romantic fiction, get For the King by Catherine Delors. Intrigue and passion in early nineteenth century Paris. Just the page-turner for a cold night in February.
  • For political satire, read The Man Who Loved Too Much by John D. Rachel. He’s a wise cynic who rants against the follies inevitably committed by all kinds of authority, from family heads to heads of state.
  • In the realm of personal relationships, I recommend Never Kiss a Frog: A Girl’s Guide to Creatures in the Dating Swamp by Marilyn Anderson. Uh, the title pretty much says it all.
  • For outstanding achievement in science fiction, The Man Who Would Not Die by Thomas Page. If you dream about immortality, be careful what you ask for.
  • And in the category of children’s books, Tell Mommy a Story by Jim and Jean Anton, a picture ebook for toddlers, available on iTunes.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My new books are Mr. Ballpoint about the wacky Pen Wars of 1945 and Christmas Karma about an unhappy family during the holidays, narrated by an angel with a weird sense of humor. To get the complete list of these books, download the podcast at Boychik.com.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

All Three of Rollo's Misadventures Now in Kindle for a Buck

My holiday gift to fans of Rollo. Priced at 99 cents through the holidays, ALL THREE comic novels combined in one Kindle. (No paper, think green.)

So if you have a Kindle and are taking a trip, load it up! If you get a new Kindle, let this one be your first download! Buying three ebooks separately would cost almost 15 bucks. So for just one buck, you get My Inflatable Friend, Rubber Babes, and Farnsworth's Revenge. 

And you get to find out how failing upward can be so painful it's funny. It's boychik lit - a story about a young man with more chutzpah than brains. Young men identify, mature men sympathize, and woman of any age just love to see this guy go splat. 

Grab it now, because in January the list price goes back up! http://amzn.to/1zNdAZJ

"The Mackerel Plaza" by Peter De Vries

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 15


Here’s my book review of The Mackerel Plaza by Peter De Vries. I credit humorist and poet Peter De Vries as the godfather of boychik lit, or comedies about boys and men who are less than careful with their life choices, particularly their choices of romantic partners.

The Mackerel Plaza is one of the funniest books you will ever read. That is, provided you have a sense of humor about both religion and the lusts of the flesh. Rev. Mackerel, respected leader of the People’s Liberal Church in suburban Connecticut, has a problem. His saintly wife has recently passed away. But that’s not the problem. He suspects she’s enjoying a better life. But while he’s still on Earth, he’d like to remarry. And, conveniently enough, he’s been secretly dating the church secretary, Miss Calico. There’s a double irony here. First, his congregation is so respectful of his wife’s legacy that they wish to erect a new shopping mall named in her honor – the Mackerel Plaza. Secondly, the preacher rightly worries that, even if his flock were to eventually approve of his intention to marry Miss Calico, the couple would have to wait years to set the date – not until the plaza is built, the dedication is done, and the luster of his wife’s postmortem fame begins to fade.

A humorous novel must have an engine of comedy. That is, a situation that is both ridiculous and impossible to maintain, which generates conflict, embarrassment, and laughter. An outwardly righteous man who harbors secret lusts is just such a formula. Certainly, men and women of the cloth have the same urges and flaws as the rest of us, but in someone whose social position is exalted, discovering their hypocrisies gives them farther to fall. And we do love it when our comic characters go splat.

The Mackerel Plaza was published in 1958, back when making fun of straying fundamentalist preachers wasn’t politically incorrect. Author De Vries grew up in the Dutch Reformed church in Chicago and yea those strictures gave the guy a real cramp in the you-know-where, so painful it's hysterical.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. I think you’ll enjoy my new humorous novel Christmas Karma about the travails of a dysfunctional family around the holidays, narrated by an angel who has a wicked sense of humor. Main character Willa Nawicki is bewildered by a series of curious karmic events that literally ring her doorbell during the frantic season, awakening years-old resentments and stimulating ever-more-intense personal confrontations. These bizarre visitations include a grizzled old man claiming to be her father, who has been missing for some thirty years but now says the title to the family home is in his name – and now he wants the place back.

As the angel observes, “The surest way to invoke the laughter of the universe is to make plans, particularly devious ones.”.

Christmas Karma would make a great gift for yourself or anyone tends to get the blues this time of year.

And be sure to catch these podcasts on BoychikLit.com.