cover image Going Down

Going Down

Jennifer Belle. Riverhead Books, $14 (272pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-554-0

Belle combines very funny, sharply written prose and a superb grasp of narrative in her debut novel. At the center of it all is her unforgettable main character, Bennington Bloom, a 19-year-old who goes to work as a call girl in high-class New York City brothels to put herself through NYU. This is no hooker with a heart of gold. She's better. The arresting combination of her caustic wit and insightful observations make for a wickedly hilarious sense of humor evoking Dorothy Parker. This is keenest when she's in bed with the men who are paying her for sex; to focus her mind elsewhere, she calculates how much money she's making. She's not about to take anything seriously: her dysfunctional family, her ridiculous acting classes, her stress-induced ulcer, her wayward friends, her intensely type-A boyfriend or, least of all, herself. Even in her moments of intense self-pity when she's confessing to her deaf, senile shrink, she can stand far enough away to laugh, or at least smirk. Things do faze her but, true to her restless nature, never for long. With tight prose and precise detail, Belle transforms the perverse into the absurd and tempers it with an empathy that prevents the book from becoming mean or crude. Belle's riotous, vivid debut has the energy and gritty appeal of New York City itself. 50,000 first printing. (July)