John Blumenthal, Author . St. Martin's Griffin $12.95 (309p) ISBN 978-0-312-32368-4

Blumenthal (What's Wrong with Dorfman? ) keeps the energy high, the expectations low and the yuks coming fast in this funny but strangely static novel. Plato G. Fussell is a neurotic, self-made millionaire working on a 10-volume biography of President Millard Fillmore. Painfully awkward around women and prone to embarrassing verbal gaffes, Fussell also doesn't believe in love. And what happens to people who don't believe in love? They fall head over heels, of course. Insert a raven-haired beauty with the same penchant for hypochondria as Plato, and we have a match. The problem is, she's the recently estranged spouse of Fussell's psychiatrist, Dr. Wang. For a while, it's fun to watch Fussell play his shrink like a fiddle, searching for information, but Blumenthal drags this plot out past its life span. Smartly, he brings in other diversions: the twilight-time escapades of Fussell's mother, a bowel-obsessed harpy, and his father, a bore who turns out to be anything but, prove to be cunning distractions—but only for so long. Blumenthal is excellent at keeping several plots going at once but the most important one peters out, only to be resurrected, sort of, by a surprising but artificial ending, a resounding thud at the end of a book that, for the most part, kept the proceedings pleasurably light and snappy. Agent, Daniel Greenberg at James Levine Communications. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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