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A Fraction of the Whole: A Novelby Steve Toltz
Synopses & Reviews
Meet the Deans...
The fact is, the whole of Australia despises my father more than any other man, just as they adore my uncle more than any other man. I might as well set the story straight about both of them...
Most of his life, Jasper Dean couldn't decide whether to pity, hate, love, or murder his certifiably paranoid father, Martin, a man who overanalyzed anything and everything and imparted his self-garnered wisdom to his only son. But now that Martin is dead, Jasper can fully reflect on the crackpot who raised him in intellectual captivity, and what he realizes is that, for all its lunacy, theirs was a grand adventure.
As he recollects the events that led to his father's demise, Jasper recounts a boyhood of outrageous schemes and shocking discoveries — about his infamous outlaw uncle Terry, his mysteriously absent European mother, and Martin's constant losing battle to make a lasting mark on the world he so disdains. It's a story that takes them from the Australian bush to the cafes of bohemian Paris, from the Thai jungle to strip clubs, asylums, labyrinths, and criminal lairs, and from the highs of first love to the lows of failed ambition.
The result is a rollicking rollercoaster ride from obscurity to infamy, and the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings. A Fraction of the Whole is an uproarious indictment of the modern world and its mores and the epic debut of the blisteringly funny and talented Steve Toltz.
"At the heart of this sprawling, dizzying debut from a quirky, assured Australian writer are two men: Jasper Dean, a judgmental but forgiving son, and Martin, his brilliant but dysfunctional father. Jasper, in an Australian prison in his early 20s, scribbles out the story of their picaresque adventures, noting cryptically early on that '[m]y father's body will never be found.' As he tells it, Jasper has been uneasily bonded to his father through thick and thin, which includes Martin's stint managing a squalid strip club during Jasper's adolescence; an Australian outback home literally hidden within impenetrable mazes; Martin's ill-fated scheme to make every Australian a millionaire; and a feverish odyssey through Thailand's menacing jungles. Toltz's exuberant, looping narrative — thick with his characters' outsized longings and with their crazy arguments — sometimes blows past plot entirely, but comic drive and Toltz's far-out imagination carry the epic story, which puts the two (and Martin's own nemesis, his outlaw brother, Terry) on an irreverent roller-coaster ride from obscurity to infamy. Comparisons to Special Topics in Calamity Physics are likely, but this nutty tour de force has a more tender, more worldly spin." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This hilarious, sneaky smart first novel is as big and rangy as Australia....Toltz salts it all with uproarious ruminations on freedom, the soul, love, death, and the meaning of life. This is one rampaging and irresistible debut." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[R]iotously funny....A Fraction of the Whole is a sort of Voltaire-meets-Vonnegut tale....The pages teem with elaborate word pictures....This author's throaty howl sounds more like music than despair." The Wall Street Journal
"Combines the hilarious high-low reference points of early Martin Amis with the annihilating punk inventiveness of Chuck Palahniuk." Best Life
"Rollicking...laugh-out-loud funny." Entertainment Weekly
"[T]hat rarest of long books — utterly worth it....This book is witty and intellectual, a physical comedy and literary rant all at once....All 544 pages are so comically dark and inviting that you have no choice but to step into its icy wake." Esquire
"A rich father-and-son story packed with incident, humor, and characters reminiscent of the styles of Charles Dickens and John Irving.... [L]ike Irving, Toltz makes minor characters leap off the page.... He's a superb, disturbing phrasemaker...this long novel, which lives or dies in the brilliance of its writing, has a subtle, compelling structure....A Fraction of the Whole soars like a rocket." Los Angeles Times
"Madcap, exhausting, and true in the way the best lies always are." New York Observer
"Hold on tight because you are about to ride a juggernaut of words, where things will go by very quickly and you better pay attention... The real pleasure in reading this book is the pace and the language. What Toltz has done masterfully is have his way with every aspect of modern life. He racks 'em up and knocks 'em down with a laser wit, a fine turn of phrase and a devastatingly funny outlook on everything human." Seattle Times
"A fantastic, rollicking adventure of a novel, both startlingly original and hysterically funny. Surely this is the new picaresque, rivaling Ignatius Reilly and Billy Bathgate." David Francis, author of The Great Inland Sea
An uproarious indictment of the ridiculousness of the modern world and its mores, this novel also tells the moving, memorable story of a father and son whose spiritual symmetry transcends all their many shortcomings.
About the Author
Steve Toltz was born in Sydney and has lived in Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Barcelona, and Paris, working as a cameraman, telemarketer, security guard, private investigator, English teacher, and screenwriter. A Fraction of the Whole is his first novel.
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