SWELLSWELL by Corwin Ericson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

so i was thinking last night about what differentiates a book like this from a book by Kurt Vonnegut or by Tom Sharpe. they’re all funny–Kurt in his deadpan glory, Sharpe wicked and relentless. Ericson is funny, but it’s like stand-up–a bunch of what are basically one-liners that don’t really connect to the larger story.

whether there is a larger story here is the big question. our protagonist Orange Whippey is an island-dwelling slacker, which might be ok if the island were tropical. but his is a New England-ish island, and 30-ish men who live for beer and excel only in the avoidance of paid labor are not admired.

i can admire those skills, personally. but even Orange didn’t seem to really want to do his utmost at them. he keeps getting pulled in one direction or another by people using him for their own schemes.

maybe it’s not possible to write an interesting book about someone who has no drive in any direction, nor is looking for one. aimless and feckless could be made interesting, i suppose, but not only as byproducts. anyway the crows of the literary establishment will witter on about how a protagonist must want something, be willing to sacrifice his/her/its all for that something. Orange doesn’t, and there’s nothing he really loves, and in the end, his aimlessness just makes him profoundly uninteresting.

i got about 2/3 of the way through this one and threw it in the resell pile. it’s not a bad book in a lot of ways, and it was the very funny one-liners that got me as far as i did. i did enjoy the quite bent humor. but i like a novel to have a story in it, too, and this one does not.