An eclectic knot of hippies, rednecks, marijuana growers, assorted eccentrics and Miami expatriates inhabit the California town of Boonville, pop. 715. Anderson's debut novel is a jolting journey among these misfits, occasionally witty and insightful but more often rambling, losing its way amid too many disparate pop culture references and unwieldy attempts at edgy prose ("Outside the apartment, Florida air hung as hot and tight as a sunbather's butt thong"). John Gibson leaves an empty life in sunny Miami after a tussle with his girlfriend and heads west to the house his grandmother bequeathed him in Boonville. Upon arriving, he immediately runs afoul of the locals, an odd mixture of inbred hill people and various contingents of hippies, including leftovers from the 1960s and a more contemporary crop. He's relieved when he meets commune-raised Sarah McKay, with whom he feels a connection, probably because she's remotely normal and beautiful. Sarah has her own set of issues to plow through, however, which she does in interminable fashion. The plot hinges on John's attempts to escape beatings by Sarah's ex-husband, a violence-prone redneck, and his interaction with the denizens of Boonville. Characters like the grossly fat Pensive Prairie Sunset, a counterculture holdout who spouts hackneyed lines about male patriarchy and Eastern religion, fall flat. The narrative relies so heavily on the far-out and fantastical that when it attempts to ground itself in human feeling, it scrambles for solid footing. In the end, Boonville is just another place where dreams stagnate. Agent, Jack Scovil. (Jan. 14)
Forecast:When it was first published in hardcover in 2001 by the Creative Arts Book Company, Boonville garnered praise from Jonathan Lethem, Norman Mailer and Carl Hiaasen, among others. Its original word-of-mouth success should help sales of this paperback edition. Six-city author tour.