L.i.e.

David Hollander, Author
David Hollander, Author Villard Books $22.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-375-50443-3
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-345-44100-3
Paperback - 231 pages - 978-0-7145-3070-3
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-09865-7
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Dissolution, love and sexual frustration are the driving themes of this debut novel, set on blue-collar Long Island, or ""Wrong Island,"" as its denizens here refer to it. Spanning the last two years of the '80s amid several dead-end towns in Suffolk County, the novel disjointedly follows the painful maturation of Harlan Kessler, a long-haired, guitar-picking 18-year-old who's searching for his life's direction but would settle for losing his virginity. A hilarious opening sequence sets the stage for his fragmented, slapstick journey: the moment before Harlan rids himself of his innocence, his entire family walks in on the teen couple en flagrante. The plot expands to include Harlan's scary brothers and adulterous parents, his loser friends and their dysfunctional families. Harlan's pal, drummer Todd Slatsky, has wild parties at which he plays home movies featuring his father beating up his mother. Harlan's eventual romantic interest, Sarah, is terrified of her mother's new husband, a sleazy coke dealer who supplies the drugs that fuel the mental breakdown of Harlan's friend Beedy. Harlan is the center of this series of increasingly odd episodes, which progress from the depressingly plausible sexual bunglings to scenes of death, destruction and depravity. In an utterly bizarre one-act play set in the middle of the book, the fragmentation of Harlan's brain mirrors the disintegration of his family. The story of Harlan's sad life is rife with the wry asides, ironic italics and narrative tricks much better left to the skills of Dave Eggers, and the novel's conclusion is deeply, unsatisfyingly ambiguous. Hollander's debut is set against a backdrop so bleak that it undermines his otherwise formidable talent for tragic irony and cinematic vision. (Sept.)
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