Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Report: Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel


     For those of you who know me, you know that one of my favorite writers is Dave Barry. Love him. I’ll read anything he writes. So when I found out that he was writing a novel with Thurber award winner Alan Zweibel, you might have well have just told me that Christmas was coming, Santa got my letter and Dave Barry was writing a novel with Alan Zeiwbel. I was excited. And after finishing it... I still am. It was everything I wanted it to be.

The novel switches the point of view between two main characters. One is Philip Horkman, who’s sort of a down to earth, square fellow who owns a pet store called “The Wine Store” and refs soccer on the weekend. the other is Jeffrey Peckerman who is... well, let’s say less down to earth, and less level headed than Horkman. After Horkman calls a foul on Peckerman’s daughter during a soccer game, the two men get in an escalating war that involves terrorists, warfare, an escaped lemur, and Donald Trump. Yeah. It’s the kind of novel I wish I could write one day.

What is there to say about this novel? It’s pretty much everything you’d expect from two humorists writing chapters back and forth to each other, each one trying to out-do each other in zanier ways. A couple of moments the plot stalls, but as each chapter gets more and more outlandish, the more I actually enjoyed it.

A real testament to the writers’ ability is the fact that it’s told in first person perspective, and I HATE first person perspective, but I still enjoyed every second of the book. I don’t know why I don’t like first person perspective. I feel at times it can be a little bit of a cheat. Rather than have characters try to figure things out, here you have a character that just tells us what he or she is thinking, and keeps that stream of thought going. It worked well in The Hunger Games. Maybe I’m just getting more used to it. Because I loved the way it worked here. I loved the fact that we’d get something from Horkman’s perspective, then shift and learn something completely different when Peckerman interjected his own thoughts on it.

The other thing I loved is the fact that you could tell the writers were just having fun with it, and that came through with each chapter. Obviously there were a few points where they were trying to outdo each other, or they were trying to set each other up with a trap of “how will they get out of this situation?” (Zwiebel wrote Horkman’s chapters, and Barry wrote Peckerman’s chapters). It’s rare that writers are able to inject what they’re writing with so much fun. Joss Whedon’s really good at that. (Bring back Firefly!) But I could barely put this book down because I wanted to read what happened next.

To me, that’s what real writing is: have fun with what you’re doing. I’m not a huge fan of “misery porn” in which writers dump what they can on characters just so something can happen. (Although Joss Whedon is pretty good at that, too. Bring back Fred and Wesley!) And there doesn’t have to be a long slog as characters learn something from the experience. The characters in Lunatics don’t really learn anything, and I don’t think they’re supposed to. But to just imagine Zwiebel and Barry going back and forth, laughing at each other. I’m building up a lot the writing process in my head. I hope I’m right.

Just do yourself a favor, and read this book. I am still laughing as I think about different parts of this book. This is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. (Yes. It’s over a year old. Read the previous post where I talk about not having time to read!)

As mentioned, Dave Barry is one of my favorite writers so I am predisposed to like it.. I like to pretend it some far off world that maybe, one day while googling his own name to see how many hits pop up he’ll stumble along this blog. In which case I will squeal like a little girl. I would love to write like him one day. I’m anxiously awaiting his next book, which is supposed to come out at the end of the month, and you can expect to see a full write-up on this blog as I tear through it, hopefully as fast as I enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Lunatics

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