HONEYMOONERS: A Cautionary Tale
An exuberant, raunchy romp, Kinder's second novel (after Snakehunter) is a chronicle of two writers who share a "stupendous dream" of fame and freedom in the Bay Area in the 1970s, the heyday of drugs, booze and indiscriminate sex. Aspiring writer Ralph Crawford (based loosely on Raymond Carver); Jim Stark, his sidekick in friendship, ambition and general fecklessness; and the two writers' mistresses and wives never quite recover from their adolescent pranks, cheerful amorality and determined debauchery, despite Crawford's rise to fame. Rarely, however, have scenes of monumental drinking sprees, skipping out on rent and restaurant checks, fierce domestic spats and promiscuous sexual coupling produced such sheer antic hilarity. Despite his outrageous irreverence, Kinder has a tender regard for his characters, who strive so foolhardily for new beginnings . In the midst of their headlong binges, characters allow some mournful insights to pierce their willful hijinks. "The thought occurred to Ralph that we are all identified finally by what we do to other people, and that betrayal is simply another form of loss." Betrayal is endemic here: Ralph betrays his wife, slightly wacky Alice Ann, with his Missoula, Mont., roundheel mistress, Lindsay; Jim betrays his friendship with Ralph by marrying Lindsay; Alice Ann, too, does her bit to turn the tables. Add to these randy shenanigans the exploits of a character named Mary Mississippi, who makes sleeping around (and that's a gentle euphemism) an art and a career. It's the tone of plangent rue just beneath the surface of this rambunctious story that will keep readers rooting for these characters depicted with such brio and compassion. (June)
Forecast:If the media pick up on this book's unusual history—its long (25 years) gestation and original length of 3,000 manuscript pages, as well as the fact that Kinder was purportedly one inspiration for the protagonist of Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys—it might garner feature as well as review coverage.