cover image I Should Have Known Better

I Should Have Known Better

William E. Jones. We Heard You Like Books, $13.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-0-578-76180-0

Artist and filmmaker Jones (I’m Open to Anything) mines the Los Angeles art scene in the mid-1990s for a snappy if sometimes superficial novel. Aimless and working at a video store, Jones’s nameless narrator, a wannabe writer, meets Bernie, a visiting professor at Cal Arts, who encourages him to apply to the school’s graduate program (the school’s “strength,” Bernie says, is they “tend to admit people who wouldn’t be accepted anywhere else”). Concurrently, the narrator reunites with Moira, a college friend working at a communist bookstore. He falls for her secretly gay co-worker, Temo, and the two men hook up for clandestine sexual encounters. The narrator’s thesis on gay porn earns him a spot at Cal Arts, where he befriends a group of fellow gay artists. Jones propels the cast through the two-year program, peppering in appearances from real artists like John Boskovich and Dennis Cooper along the way, yet as the narrator’s friends fall for each other and find their footing as artists, the narrator struggles, feeling as if he’s the perennial outsider. While the novel has little new to offer regarding its portrayal of the MFA experience, Jones keeps the reader aboard with wit and pathos. This is great fun. (Sept.)