Violence, Nudity, Adult Content 1st Edition
by Vince Passaro
A Man Behaving Badly
A review by Adrienne Miller
GIST: An uneven but very gutsy first novel about the damage men do.
DETAILS: William Riordan, a thirty-nine year-old Manhattan attorney, is confronted with two difficult cases — one, an extremely rich man who may or may not have killed his wife; the other, a rape. Riordan, being an ambitious and utterly narcissistic man (emphasis on the man part), has allowed his personal life to disintegrate, having spent too many late nights in the office, and behaving badly on the rare evenings when he does make it home. His marriage to Elly (for my money, the strongest and most complex character in the book) is falling apart. He's barely able to conceal his disgust with her body — with what their two children did to her body. With what, if we take it back one more step, he did to her body. The children barely exist here, and are rarely named — perhaps as good an indication as any of Riordan's chronic self-absorbedness. Elly orders him to move out. The obligatory trip to IKEA follows. Once in his bachelor pad, Riordan sits on his new futon, eating potato chips, finding himself becoming increasingly drawn into the dangerous world of the rape victim, a black bisexual named Ursula. This Ursula is not one to be fucked with. She is a prolific sender of blistering e-mails whose general message is that no man is to be trusted.
While the author may swing for the fences a little too often, while he may try a little too hard for the Big Statement — here is a particularly DeLillo-esque example: "'Documents,' Larkin says, with a passion for the word. Documents as biblical straps, flaking remnants of the scroll, holy scripture" — Violence, Nudity, Adult Content is a smart, entertaining novel about the loneliness and alienation of what they call in grad programs everywhere "postmodern life."
Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.
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