Sinatraland

Sam Kashner, Author Overlook Press $22.95 (220p) ISBN 978-0-87951-917-9
Kashner's (Talent for Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar Levant) hilarious debut novel reviews the life of a down-on-his-luck Hoboken, N.J., window-shade salesman through a series of heart-wrenching letters he writes to his idol, Frank Sinatra. Like the Chairman of the Board, ""Finkie"" Finklestein grows up in a poor ethnic Hoboken neighborhood and prospers during the postwar American boom. He buys a house in Fort Lee once owned by Buddy Hackett and names his daughter Nancy Ava, after Frank's first two wives. Finkie mimics the swinging sophistication of the Rat Pack, who, he vainly hopes, will one day draft him into active service, yet his Sinatraesque ideal contrasts pathetically with his strictly square real life as a divorced salesman with few relationships beyond his morose brother and his bullwhipping uncle. With rapid-fire wit, Kashner demonstrates his detailed knowledge of pop culture as Finkie follows Sinatra's movies and marriages, his story climaxing at the 1971 farewell concert where Finkie tries to see Ol' Blue Eyes backstage--with disastrous results. When Finkie finally encounters the man behind the Voice, the novel strikes deeper than satire, to probe the flaky foundation of celebrity worship, a hollow value system Hollywood engenders and Sinatra exemplifies. Kashner manages to dissect a fan's obsession with poignant comedy, and he captures a New Jersey accent with a sure ear. Incorporating humor, pathos, timing and research in his narrative, Kashner does it his way, revealing in the process a sparkling literary talent. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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