Sunday, December 14, 2014

"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.

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