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

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

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!

"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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese

Boychik Lit Book Review - No. 14

Here’s my book review of Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

The book’s title refers to a pledge in the Hippocratic Oath, "I will not cut for stone." Although the original meaning had to do with not removing bladder stones, it would perhaps be more relevant to today's medicine for a new doctor to promise, "I won't perform treatments just for the sake of making money.”

So, it’s all about ethical choices and doing the right thing.

The story flows from the unlikely and surprising birth of a pair of twin boys, Marion and Shiva, by an Indian-born nun, Sister Mary Praise, in Ethiopia in the 1950s. The father is an English surgeon, Thomas Stone, who heads the field clinic. The story is narrated by Marion. It’s about Marion’s finding his way in the world as he grows up, his identity both bonded to and becoming separate from Shiva, and eventually becoming a surgeon himself. The boys’ mother dies from the difficult birth, and their father abandons them. It’s a story about family, community, betrayal, parental love and estrangement, sibling bonding and rivalry, personal bravery, not-so-uncommon acts of kindness, the heroic practice of medicine, suffering and compassion--and irony. Things just don’t turn out in the ways you’d expect.

Author Abraham Verghese is likewise a practicing surgeon, now living in the U.S., who grew up in Ethiopia. His account seems autobiographical, but much of it is invented, as he explains in detail in his Acknowledgments.

I heard him speak at a book signing at an Ethiopian restaurant in Los Angeles, and he mentioned that he admires W. Somerset Maugham. This book does remind me of Maugham’s Cakes and Ale, including the crafting of its sentences. Maugham also studied medicine, and Vergehese has said that Of Human Bondage was one of the books that motivated him to become a doctor.
Verghese also said in an interview that “a book is a life you live without giving your life.” You probably never thought about how challenging it would be to practice medicine in a place like Ethiopia, but here’s your chance.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. I think you’ll enjoy my humorous novels Mr. Ballpoint and Christmas Karma. And you can catch these podcasts on

Monday, December 1, 2014

"The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 14

Here’s my book review of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

This is a story about art theft and romantic obsession. Main character Theodore Decker is very much the boychik – a young man with more ambition than brains. So it’s a coming-of-age story, as well, full of his personal introspection and psychological turmoil.

Be warned – plot spoilers ahead.

Young Theo and his mother duck into a New York museum in the rain and are caught in a terrorist bomb blast. His mother is killed, but he is one of the few survivors. Another fatality is a cultured old man named Welty, who was at the museum with his pretty young ward Pippa. She’s close to Theo’s age and also survives, but with some debilitating injuries. She will become the unrequited love of his life. Before Welty expires next to Theo in the rubble, he gives him his signet ring and tells him to take this small painting – The Goldfinch – a Dutch Master picture of a bird chained to its perch. Theo takes on the mission to keep the painting safe.

That’s as much of the story as I’ll give away. There’s a lot more – this is a big book. The novel owes a lot to Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, and it mentions both. The underlying philosophical questions are broad and deep: Why is there evil in the world? What is the point of living? And what do we owe to history? to future generations?

A literary agent told me that author Donna Tartt refuses to be edited. Like I say, it’s a long book. It topped the bestseller lists for a while, and clearly many of her readers hoped it would be worth the time invested.

As for me, I applaud its ambitions, but I do think less would have been more.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My new humorous novels are Mr. Ballpoint and Christmas Karma. And you can catch these podcast book reviews on

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holiday Book Giveaways

Drawing for Free Books Ends Thursday (Thanksgiving) Evening

LaPuerta Books and Media is giving away five copies each of Gerald Everett Jones's recently released books, Mr. Ballpoint and Christmas Karma.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mr. Ballpoint by Gerald Everett Jones

Mr. Ballpoint

by Gerald Everett Jones

Giveaway ends November 27, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Christmas Karma by Gerald Everett Jones

Christmas Karma

by Gerald Everett Jones

Giveaway ends November 27, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"The Beginner's Goodbye" by Anne Tyler

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 13

Here’s my book review of The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler.

It’s a story about love and sudden, tragic loss. Some fans complain it’s too short. So read it twice. The second time through, slow down. Marvel at Anne Tyler's spare style. And ask yourself why it's not the same as other authors who limit themselves to twenty-word sentences, no more than two clauses per. It could be plain-vanilla tenth-grade stuff. It could be boring and insipid. But there's something else going on here. Something gets said between the lines. It could baffle you trying to figure it out. I think it's all about logic and thought flow. Your brain has to supply what's skipped over. She trains you not only to read, but also to think and to feel.

Her main character here is a middle-aged widower. To all appearances, he’s a jerk, easier to sympathize with because he has a disability. But he's using the disability as an excuse not to relate to people. "Don't give me any help" is his self-fulfilling proclamation. He justifies himself to himself, as we all do, even when he knows he's behaving selfishly.

Forgiving all her characters, even the stinkers, is an Anne Tyler trademark. Her writing is a loving, angel’s eye view of the human condition.

I wrote my new novel, Christmas Karma, especially for fans of Anne Tyler. Old heartaches come knocking the week before the holiday, in a story told by an angel with a weird sense of humor. Particularly if you tend to get the blues this time of year, this book will lift your spirits.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. Catch these podcasts at

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"President Me" by Adam Carolla

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 12

Here’s my book review of President Me: The America That’s in My Head by Adam Carolla.
It’s no surprise that this book is a collection of rants. It’s his take on public policy, but the issues are simply his everyday annoyances. With his wisecracking talent, he magnifies these trivial snits into national crises that require the attention of the chief executive. Read his problems and his commonsense solutions, and you’ll find a kindred complainer.
Airport security hassles the innocent, especially the weary business traveler. The few restaurants that serve coleslaw as an alternative to French fries screw it up by adding golden raisins. Women need a perfume that smells like WD-40.
Ultimately, the cause of each and every problem is government over-regulation – and the fact that too many Americans are running around overdosed on caffeine.
Speaking of caffeine and political theory, on a recent podcast, Carolla confessed that he was chatting up a respected pundit while he waited in line at the local coffee bar. His secret advisor? None other than – Dennis Praeger.
Conspiracy theorists, take note.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. Read my humorous novel about wacky capitalists, Mr. Ballpoint, and catch these podcasts on Boychik

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Griftopia" by Matt Taibbi

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 11

Here’s my book review of Griftopia by Matt Taibbi. It’s a fascinating, ultra-hip, and more or less comprehensible explanation of the financial bubble burst of 2008. It’s a disturbing investigative report. But let’s get real. We need to understand this stuff if we ever want to think and act like a responsible adults instead of brain-dead, wage-slave entertainment addicts.
Did you know that parking meters in Chicago are now owned by offshore investors? And that other big chunks of our municipal- and state-owned infrastructure, like parks, are being auctioned or leased to foreign interests? All because our government budgets are imploding and your friendly investment bankers have the fix -- just sell off the US of A in pieces while they take fat commissions on the deals.
If only chronically curious journalist Matt Tiabbi were some crack-head scribbler who made all this stuff up to sell books. If it weren’t the shameful truth, it would make a very funny movie.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. Read my humorous novel about wacky capitalists Mr. Ballpoint, and follow these podcasts at

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"The Arsenal of Democracy" by A. J. Baime

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 10 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles

The subtitle of this World War II history recaps the story: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm America at War. At its heart, it’s a father-son feud – between Nazi sympathizer and professed pacifist Henry Ford and his future-minded son Edsel. Against his father’s judgment, in 1941 Edsel answered FDR’s appeal for mass production of warplanes. Starting from bare farmland, the Ford company built the enormous Willow Run plant. Applying Henry’s assembly-line methods, it was capable of turning out one 60,000-pound bomber every day. Edsel thought it was perfectly reasonable to build one bomber every hour. The plant was operational in less than two years, when the Germans had been cranking out thousands of aircraft for more than a decade. That’s how fast and effectively American ingenuity met the challenge. It’s both inspiring and sobering, as we recognize that sometimes Big Government is called upon to do big things. Author A. J. Baime is an editor at Playboy magazine. This engaging story is proof that he’s more than a pretty face. For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My humorous novel Mr. Ballpoint is about a father and son who fought the wacky Pen Wars of 1945. You can find readings from the book in my podcasts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Elizabeth the First Wife" by Lian Dolan

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 9 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles

The genre I call boychik lit is centered on men. Chick lit – like Sex and the City – is relationship games for women. Sometimes I read chick lit to see what our better halves are thinking. Elizabeth the First Wife is about Elizabeth Lancaster, a Shakespeare scholar from Pasadena, who is recently divorced from a famous Hollywood boy-toy. He barges back into her life to ask her to coach him in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, which he hopes will help him shake his reputation as an empty-headed hunk. As they prepare to do the show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, real-life lovers chase each other ridiculously around the maypole of both serious and casual relationships. Men, you might read Elizabeth the First Wife to find out what they think, but if you think you’ll get a clue, think again.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My new novel Christmas Karma is also set in Pasadena, and I think women as well as men will find it funny.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"The Woody" by Peter Lefcourt

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 8 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles

I hold author Peter Lecourt in high regard as a skilled practitioner of what I call boychik lit, or male-centered comic fiction. The Woody is a wacky satire about boneheaded liaisons in Washington politics, featuring an unlucky Congressman who gets caught with his pants down. The appearance of this book in the late 1990s coincided with the early Clinton scandals, although it's just possible the events that inspired it had more to do with the embarrassments of Gary Hart's earlier presidential campaign. As Jackie Mason said, "That guy was on top of everything!"
It's stunning to think how innocent those days now seem by comparison. But as a lesson in electoral politics along with hysterical examples of how politicians screw things up, you can’t beat The Woody.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. If you like political satire, try my novel Farnsworth’s Revenge. And you can catch these audio book reviews on

Cross-posted to

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"My Voice Will Go with You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson" by Sidney Rosen

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 7 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles My Voice Will Go with You is a nonfiction collection of essays.

Psychiatrist Milton Erickson is regarded as the father of neurolinguistic programming. This book is a collection of very short stories he told clients who were in a trance state as a means of reprogramming their thinking about a problem they brought to him. Erickson believed that stories heard and then forgotten have the most power over future actions. That's because, once the conscious, censoring mind has ceased analyzing the experience, the persistent memory of the story can percolate in the unconscious. The book illustrates vividly the power of a story to transform thinking and behavior--immediately. The accompanying commentary by author Sidney Rosen tells why each story is effective in changing behavior.
My Voice Will Go with You. I sincerely hope it does.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. My new humorous novel Christmas Karma will be released in paperback and Kindle on November 8th, and you can find these audio clips on

Read more in my review of this book on

Friday, October 10, 2014

Holiday Book Release "Christmas Karma" Promotion

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Christmas Karma by Gerald Everett Jones

Christmas Karma

by Gerald Everett Jones

Giveaway ends October 20, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"Shakespeare" by Bill Bryson

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 6 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson is a nonfiction survey of what few facts are known about the famous playwright.
Shakespeare's vocabulary included about 20,000 words. You probably know about 50,000. But – get this -- when Shakespeare couldn't find an appropriate word, he just made one up.
In fact, he gave about 800 words to us. Among these are: abstemious, assassination, barefaced, excellent, zany, and countless others, including countless.
Shakespeare's familiar turns of a phrase included: one fell swoop, vanish into thin air, be in a pickle, the milk of human kindness, salad days, and foregone conclusion.
Turns out, the two biggest influences on our language have been The King James Bible, a brand-new book in Shakespeare’s day, and his plays.
Hey, read anything by Bill Bryson. He knows a thing or two.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. You’ll find many humorous turns of phrase in my novel Mr. Ballpoint, and you can catch these audio clips on
Read more about Bryson's Shakespeare.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Right Ho, Jeeves" by P. G. Wodehouse

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 5 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles

Set in the Roaring 'Twenties, Right Ho, Jeeves by the British humorist P.G. Wodehouse is a collection of stories about a young wealthy gentleman, Bertie Wooster, and his manservant Jeeves. Bertie is well-meaning, but lazy and not particularly bright. He freely admits Jeeves is the brainy one. Bertie always makes a mess of getting a chum out of romantic or money trouble, and Jeeves always comes up with a some cockeyed scheme that saves the day.
Just after World War I, the male population of Europe had been decimated by the war. Bertie’s comic fear of his dowager aunt reflected the reality that much of England’s  private wealth was then in the hands of older women. Young men like him who had been infants during the war were so appalled by the state of the world that they coped by acting like bratty little boys who refused to grow up.
So – avoid responsibility, romantic entanglements, and financial conundrums. Fear marriage and anyone in uniform. Pursue amusement, particularly if a practical joke will end in what Bertie’s chums call a "good wheeze." Fraternize with like-minded adult males who, despite their elevated social standing, aspire to remain boys. Encourage food fights, but only with dinner rolls so as not to create a mess for which responsibility would have to be assumed. Coordinate rugby scrums in the clubroom, but only if fragile crockery has first been cleared. Solving real-world problems (such as romantic entanglements) by way of practical jokes and stratagems might not work but it's always worth a good try.
Our world – like his – is anything but silly these days. But sometimes what Bertie called a “good wheeze” is just the thing to put a chap right.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. You’ll find some silliness in my novel Mr. Ballpoint, and you can listen to these audio reviews on
Read my longer review of Right Ho, Jeeves here and on

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Sweet Tooth" by Ian McEwan

Boychik Lit Book Reviews = No. 4 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles

Sweet Tooth by Ian MacEwan is a British spy novel about and narrated by a female operative. She’s a bright, Cambridge math wiz recruited by the secret service to mislead an aspiring novelist into becoming an anti-Communist propaganda tool. It’s not about murder or mayhem so much as violence to the truth – the dirty business of government-sponsored disinformation. No big surprise, she falls in love with him and they begin an affair. Problem is, she can never bring herself to tell him that he’s her joe and she’s playing him for a fool. But it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that eventually this plot gets pulled inside out, when we learn the novelist has been spying on her all along. In the end, it’s all about betrayal – as all good spy novels are – about the lies we tell to get what we want while protecting ourselves. I think you’ll enjoy Sweet Tooth, but you might not ever look at your sweetheart quite the same way again.

For Boychik Lit, I'm Gerald Everett Jones. Pick up my new humorous novel Mr. Ballpoint, and follow my rants on

Cross-posted to

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gerald talks with Chris Poublon on WCAP radio Midday Cafe

Host Jack Baldwin was under the weather that day, so producer Chris Poublon interviewed me on the air for a full 20-minute segment. Chris had received an advance review copy of Mr. Ballpoint, and I believe him when he said he read it and was thoroughly entertained. We talked about the Pen Wars and about why there aren't more father-son comedies. I was also able to describe how one of  huckster Milton Reynolds' promotions backfired when he inscribed hundreds of pens with "I Swiped This Pen from Harry S. Truman."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 3 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles

Three years ago, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes won Britain’s top literary prize. You will either be fascinated by this book, or it just might infuriate you.
Main character Tony Webster is middle-aged and reflecting back on his life. Just when he thinks he has it all sorted, he has to cope with troublesome consequences from choices he made as a young man. He has to face the possibility that he may have been responsible for his best friend’s death, and he may be the father of an illegitimate child.
The two people who know the facts are gone. The third isn’t talking, and her diary, which could have revealed everything, is probably lost.
Barnes shows us how Tony rewrites history so as to make himself the hero of his own story. Or, at the very least, justify his actions. And, so do all of us. Families, communities, and nations continually adjust the favorable light on their actions over time.
Why might you be infuriated? Because, bravely I think for an author, Barnes provides only the sense of an ending.
For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. Read my hilarious new novel Mr.Ballpoint, and follow my rants at

Full Review (cross-posted on

Spoiler Alert!

In terms of overt clues and Adrian's equation, Adrian had an affair (perhaps not so brief, near the end of his life) with Veronica's mother Sarah, who bore the child, also named Adrian, who was later sent (after Sarah's death?) to a caregiver facility.
I think what nags at Tony at the end is that there are other possibilities that could fit the evidence better. Unless Veronica spills it, or Adrian's diary is not burnt after all, Tony can never know for sure. In all scenarios he's guilty, in some achingly more than in others.
The child could have been Veronica's by Adrian or by Tony. The memory of the trip to the river seems to imply a night of unprotected, romantic sex. Sarah might have cared for the baby when Veronica couldn't, or wouldn't. Veronica's pregnancy would have been when she and Adrian were newlyweds. He might have died thinking the baby was his. Or sure that it wasn't. Or not sure at all and tormented by it.
Tony says the child (seen now as a young man) looks like the presumed father, his old friend Adrian. But did Tony look like Adrian? Is Tony looking into a mirror and denying the familiarity he sees? Is Tony's remarking on the resemblance a clue to throw us off the track?
The child could have been Sarah's by Tony. This strange possibility best explains: 1) Sarah's bequest, 2) Veronica's rage, and 3) Sarah's enigmatic parting gesture to Tony, implying a secret they shared (that she'd seduced him during the visit). The fact that Adrian has repressed the memory of the sex act (but not the washing up after) would seem totally implausible, except in the context of this book which is all about how our minds rewrite history to suit our opinion of ourselves.
It's a mind twister, and credit Barnes for giving plenty of clues but being brave enough to perplex his readers by providing only the sense of an ending. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

'The Marriage Plot' by Jeffrey Eugenides

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 2 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides poses the question: “Does a love story that ends in marriage have any relevance today?” Time was, back in Jane Austen’s nineteenth-century Britain, whether the heroine snagged the man of her dreams made all the difference. He would be handsome, tender, and – best of all – rich. Doesn’t sound too P. C. does it? But that’s essentially the plot of chick-lit novels like Sex and the City.
In a man’s take on the subject, The Marriage Plot hinges on a love triangle first joined on a college campus. There’s a shy man who wants to help starving children, a neurotic woman who has a big heart, and a brilliant biochemist who has serious mental problems. Ultimately, this is a novel about perception, what we make of reality as it is happening to us, and our inability to make meaning of events in time to control their outcome. Things happen or they don't. Things work out or they don't. They mostly don't, and we move on. Bad news for self-help gurus who are helping you make plans. Way to make God laugh.

For Boychik Lit, I’m Gerald Everett Jones. Read my hilarious new novel Mr.Ballpoint, and follow my rants at

From my longer review cross-posted on

The Marriage Plot is masterful on many levels. At first I wasn't drawn to any of the three characters in the love triangle - Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell. Each seemed deeply flawed, and they are. Except you read along and find that Eugenides thinks we all are, just as deeply in our unique ways, and are none the lesser for it. That's the way people are, and the way life goes. We stumble through it, thinking we are somehow in control, and it's what happens nevertheless while we are furiously busy making other plans, or simply fretting about making up our minds.

This is a literary novel, in the best sense, and I was surprised to read some critics cramming it into the diminutive genre "campus novel." That would be like classifying Pride and Prejudice as a rom com, which is not as irrelevant as it sounds. The marriage plot, you see, is the genre form of which that work is representative. Eugenides wants to know whether the marriage plot is dead as a meaningful literary form, now that marriage seems hardly worthy as the ultimate goal of youthful aspirations.

Then there's the theme of semiotics. I studied with Roland Barthes (yes, I'm that old) and back then I don't think the term semiotics even existed. At least, I don't recall his ever having used it. But he talked incessantly about structuralism, that a novel is a long sentence spoken by its author, a literary construct waiting to be parsed. Understand, I didn't get any of this from him back then, just from what others, including Susan Sontag, have written about him since. His lesson plan was built around Balzac's short story "Sarrasine," which is the engrossing tale of a man obsessed by an opera star who turns out to be both a castralto and the "kept woman" of a powerful priest. But why Barthes chose that story for his criticism totally escaped me at the time, and I can only surmise now what his intentions were.

But back to Eugenides. The characters meet in a semiotics class at Brown, and the author gives a lot of detail about the subject and its impact on their personal thoughts. Semiotics claims, for example, that humans would not experience love as we have come to understand it unless we had read about it (or seen movies about it) first. There's a similar concept in Stendhal's The Red and the Black, in which the narrator comments that peasants in the French countryside cope with life less well than the sophisticated citizens of Paris, who have all read novels that give them models for how to act in society.

Ultimately, this is a novel about perception, what we make of reality as it is happening to us, and our inability to make meaning of events in time to control their outcome. Things happen or they don't. Things work out or they don't. They mostly don't, and we move on.

Perhaps significantly, the character in this book who understands himself best is the one whose grasp on reality is most tenuous, because he has to work at staying sane. In his acknowledgements, Eugenides credits several experts and sources for genetic research (another theme), but he thanks no one for his extensive detailing of bipolar disorder and its treatment. So naturally I wonder how he came by this information, and at what personal cost. (An astute Goodreads commentator observed that Eugenides was a close personal friend of David Foster Wallace, a brilliant novelist who suffered from bipolar disorder and committed suicide.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

'Forever Panting' by Peter De Vries

Boychik Lit Book Reviews - No. 1 - KRLA 870 AM Los Angeles

I coined the term boychik lit after the Yiddish word for a young man with more chutzpah than brains. It’s a counterpoint to chick lit - humorous novels like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Sex and the City – about young women on the make. Boychik lit is about young men on the make, but also popular with mature men who want to remember being young and on the make, as well as women of any age who apparently find the foolishness of all men funny.

Classic as boychik lit – which I recommend for a short read and a good laugh – is the 1973 novel Forever Panting by that master, Peter De Vries. It’s about an out of work actor who divorces his wife and marries his mother-in-law, putting real spin on the old adage, “Careful what you ask for.”

And here it is. Not easy to find. Some public libraries will have it. Some banned it long ago, and perhaps no one there remembers why.

Forever Panting, one of my all-time faves, was first published in 1973. The godfather of boychik lit, De Vries is hopelessly politically incorrect these days. For example, his Slouching Towards Kalamazoo is about a high-school boy who runs away with his comely teacher. You simply cannot go there now, so have life and lawsuits imitated art in the years since.

Raised in a Christian fundamentalist Dutch Reformed family in Chicago, De Vries held notions of humor that typically involved religious hypocrisy and suburban adultery. His Mackerel Plaza is about a widower minister whose late wife was so saintly and highly regarded, he fears her reputation might get in the way of his plans to marry the church secretary.

For extra credit: Who is writing such stuff now?