cover image Warp


Lev Grossman. St. Martin's Press, $12.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-312-17059-2

Recent Harvard graduate Hollis has been kicked off the mommy-daddy train for bad behavior in Grossman's low-key, witty first novel about a melancholic upper-middle class rebel without a cause. Cashing in his last stocks, hiding from his landlord, mourning a failed romance and up for anything but a real job (""these hands were never meant for toil""), Hollis helps break into the house of friends of friends for a weekend of luxury and ""screen time"" with their cable TV. That's where he meets an unlikely partner in crime. A pastiche of pop-cult references--Star Trek, late-night B movies, historical romance, Sherlock Holmes, 15-year-old Top-40 hits--intrude upon Hollis's stream of consciousness as he hangs out with Cambridge pals, reminisces about his ex and lets a beautiful, mysterious stranger take him home. But the familiar technique feels new enough in Grossman's hands to inspire affection for his unlikely protagonist, whose gentle despair recalls the heroes of Ann Beattie's Chilly Scenes of Winter and Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim. Like those debuts, this one relies on its strengths--deadpan comic dialogue, trivial irony and faultless, unostentatious evocations of place--without any of the efforts to preach or shock or amaze that plague so many chronicles of generation X. (Nov.)