Balls

Julian Tepper. Rare Bird/Barnacle (SPD, dist.), $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-98392-557-6
Jack-of-all-trades Tepper proves with this clunky debut novel that there's at least one trade he can't quite ply. Henry Schiller is a 30-year-old washed-up piano player living in New York City, and he's got very few things going for him—among them is his beautiful and much younger girlfriend, Paula, a violin prodigy. But just days before she announces that she'll be jetting off to Europe for the summer to play for some influential music biz types, Henry discovers that the persistent pain in his groin is testicular cancer. Thus begins Henry's existential crisis. Unfortunately, Tepper fails to capitalize on his own experience as part of indie rock outfit The Natural History; rather than capturing the grit and pulse of the underground New York City music scene, he instead sets this tepid drama in a Manhattan cribbed straight from a Woody Allen film—one of dark lounges and piano bars populated by sad old quirky men. Poor Henry lurches from one awkward situation to another, getting entangled with everyone from his therapist to an old man he meets at a bar, but nothing much else happens. This frustrating plotlessness is further exacerbated by Tepper's undergraduate writing chops, which too often result in bland phrases like "his frail but durable upper-body." Unfortunately for this book and the "tired, stooped, pale-faced" Henry, simply insisting that something's fine doesn't quite make it so. (July)
Reviewed on: 08/20/2012
Release date: 08/01/2012
Paperback - 261 pages - 978-1-940207-03-2
Ebook - 263 pages - 978-0-9889312-7-5
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