A Welcome Blast of Satire
A review by Anna Godbersen
Stuart Breen -- a novelist, and thus one of the better developed characters in
Mike Heppner's wicked novel Pike's Folly -- is not at peace with the concept
of fun. For Stuart, "To have fun was to acknowledge that nothing one might
accomplish would ever amount to anything important. It was the spiritual equivalent
of committing suicide." Happily, Heppner is not himself this kind of writer;
Pike's Folly brims with fun, although it is the kind of Waugh-like breezy
black humor that cloaks a biting satire. Stuart's boss is Nathaniel Pike, a Rhode
Island "mega-billionaire" and provocateur who has "built a reputation
for wasteful, eccentric behavior." His latest, highly questionable venture
involves buying a remote piece of public land in New Hampshire's White Mountains
and paving it with a parking lot, a move which quickly inspires the ire of local
activists and PC hellions. He does gain a curious kind of support from his foil,
Gregg Reese, another wealthy Rhode Islander, whose old money family are known
to be "indiscriminate supporters of social causes." Also trying, in
her way, to be free is Marlene, Stuart's plain-Jane wife, a budding exhibitionist
who's been finding it hard as of late to keep her clothes on in public places.
Pike's "Independence Project" (i.e., the nonfunctional parking lot,
now adorned with a Kmart) brings an ensemble cast of floundering characters
together, spins them around, and sends them off in new, more meaningful directions.
Heppner is after liberal guilt here (a subplot involves the discovery of a slavery-era
mass grave), as well as the superfluity of contemporary American culture. (A
documentary about the Independence Project catches on with "the eighteen-to-thirty
bracket, a demographic known for its willingness to embrace any passing fancy,
no matter how shallow or derivative.") The social commentary in Pike's
Folly doesn't ultimately cohere as much more than a collection of one-liners,
but that doesn't prevent Heppner's second novel from being a complete blast
of a read.
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