BALD

Russell David Harper, Author . Scala House $12 (209p) ISBN 978-0-9720287-6-9

This intermittently charming debut novel offers a collection of reflections by Maryland native Russell Cole, a "chunky" and prematurely balding editorial peon, on everything from ironic postmodernism to the irrelevance of chiropractic care. In his early 30s and downwardly mobile, Russell has little better to do than riff on past and future humiliations, loading his monologue with meditations on literature and popular culture and pithy musings on baldness ("A five-thousand-dollar hairpiece can survive quite heavy winds... whereas a combover will tend to fly free, making the head look as if it is unraveling"). Yet despite its title, most of the book serves as a testament to Russell's incipient alcoholism (see chapters "A Word about Drinking and Driving," "Interlude: Drunken Letter to My Brother" and "Don't Drink Alone"), and Cole's postslacker fixation on getting drunk and listening to copious amounts of Led Zeppelin grows monotonous. What's more, the constant asides to the reader ("You must sense, by now, that I'm rather childish," "Now. What else? Let's see," "Terribly sorry to digress," etc.) disrupt any momentum the story might gather. Russell's voice is genuine and often winning as he chronicles the vagaries of an aimless life, but there are too few genuine laughs to be had along the way. (Oct. 1)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Fiction
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