This startlingly original debut from This American Life contributor Jonathan Goldstein is, according to a Vice magazine reviewer, "the cleanest dirty book I've ever read." It's a snapshot of the mind of Josh, a rather confused young man who must cope with his father's listlessness and his own overwhelming lust, not to mention the arrival of the Moschiach, inventor of the infamous Love Lotion. Lenny Bruce Is Dead walks a tightrope between the searingly funny and the poignant. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll long for some Love Lotion of your own. And you won't forget Josh-ineptitude, scatological neuroses, urban angst, self-deprecating humor and all.
Goldstein's woeful, funny debut novel is a series of aphorism-capped vignettes, paced at the rate of approximately one scene per paragraph. As these snapshots flash past, protagonist Josh ages rapidly from child to onanistic teen to depressive adult, mourning the death of his mother and the loss of a series of vividly described girlfriends along the way. Throughout, descriptions of Josh's suburban-anytown Jewish upbringing and job at local fast-food franchise Burger Zoo, while peppered with scatological and Portnoy's Complaint-esque sordidly sexual details, often achieve a level of nuance that's poetic and almost profound. In the latter third of the book, Josh's preoccupation with a Hasidic neighbor and the "Rebbe's Kosher-style Love Lotion" that he begins to experiment with grow repetitive and confusing. But "This American Life" contributing editor Goldstein has a knack for imagery ("He was crying on the floor, pulling toilet paper off the spool with both hands like he was climbing a rope") and ear for hyper-realistic dialogue, making him a writer to watch. (Mar.)
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February 20, 2006
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