cover image Mr. Breakfast

Mr. Breakfast

Jonathan Carroll. Melville House, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61219-992-4

This self-congratulatory contemporary fantasy from Carroll (Bathing the Lion) follows comedian-turned-photographer Graham Patterson as he explores the alternate directions his life could take. While fleeing from his comedy career on a road trip across the U.S., Patterson impulsively gets a tattoo from Anna Mae Collins. Soon thereafter, he starts to see “mirror versions” of himself, first witnessing himself get kidnapped. Collins conveniently returns to explain that the “Breakfast Tattoo” Patterson selected gives the bearer the ability to observe, and ultimately choose between, three different versions of his own life. Carroll takes pains to assure the reader that the protagonist’s jokes are funny and his photographs magnificent, and the narrative frequently stalls to explain the message of a scene through heavy-handed metaphor, leaving little room for imagination or interpretation. Together with a stable of female characters almost universally concerned with motherhood, and disabled characters built on tired stereotypes (a “spooky” blind person, a murderous schizophrenic, and a burdensome autistic child), it makes for a turgid reading experience. While the alternate realities deliver some genuine surprises alongside the occasional heartfelt meditation on the randomness of life and the futility in trying to control it, the whole is too trite to be very thought provoking. All but Carroll’s most devoted fans can skip this. (Jan.)