Karoo

Steve Tesich, Author
Steve Tesich, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $24 (416p) ISBN 978-0-15-100295-5
Reviewed on: 03/02/1998
Release date: 03/01/1998
Paperback - 362 pages - 978-1-890447-37-3
Paperback - 406 pages - 978-0-09-977791-5
Hardcover - 406 pages - 978-0-7011-6687-8
Paperback - 978-2-7578-3305-6
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Early in this hilarious novel, readers will be laughing out loud, but Tesich is ultimately quite serious about reminding us that moments or years of ""unlove"" can never be set right. Wisecracking narrator Saul Karoo, a Hollywood script doctor living in New York, is a heavy drinker and smoker, a hypochondriac who refuses to get health insurance because he ""no longer has his health."" In the novel's opening scene, Karoo spends the last Christmas party of the 1980s wondering how he can avoid taking his adopted, college-age son, Billy, home with him that night (he succeeds, after a fashion, by taking home a sloshed young woman instead). Billy's goal is to connect with his father, but Karoo evades intimacy on every level as steadfastly as he ducks the truth: he lies constantly, yet his first-person narrative reveals an entertaining man at once sensitive and indifferent. Haunted by the harm he's done, he longs to reform but seems incapable of playing the game straight. Meanwhile, Machiavellian superproducer Jay Cromwell (who makes Karoo look like a ""moral force of his time"") sends him an unreleased film by venerable director Arthur Houseman. Karoo recognizes that the film is a masterpiece, but Cromwell wants him to restructure it--a process that has in the past led to one screenwriter's suicide. Karoo refuses the Houseman film until the cassette leads him to Billy's biological mother and he suddenly thinks he sees a way to make everyone happy. Tesich (Summer Crossing, and many screenplays, including Academy Award-winning Breaking Away) knew New York and Hollywood well. The movie-making scenes here are classic. Even though the end of this posthumously published novel doesn't live up to the humor and poignancy of the rest, Tesich's memorable characters, particularly Karoo, will endure. (Mar.)
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