Leave it to attorney-author Michael Kun to endow his hilarious new novel about the nature of truth, "You Poor Monster"...
Leave it to attorney-author Michael Kun to endow his hilarious new novel about the nature of truth, “You Poor Monster” (MacAdam/Cage, 340 pp., $23), with copious endnotes. Thirty-three pages of them.
Even the book’s title, subtitle (“This Should Answer Your Questions, My Son”) and byline come with endnotes. A letter from Kun’s editor, “Diane!,” starts the book with a warning that the author radically revised the story shortly before publication, so she felt it was appropriate to leave in all of his explanatory and sometimes desperate remarks, which were intended mostly for her.
Kun is quite the jokester, and he’s an adventuresome writer.
His story involves the oddball friendship that develops between a hapless Baltimore attorney, Hamilton Ashe, and his neighbor, Sam Shoogey, a dashing gadfly whose imagination is bursting with witticisms (“Normally, I live by the motto: sic biscuitis disintegrat“) and too-good-to-be true anecdotes. He’s the only man in Baltimore who’d dare wear a blue-and-white seersucker suit. He reeks not of cologne but of summer peaches.
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Michael Kun will read from “You Poor Monster,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., Seattle; free (206-624-6600 or www.elliottbaybook.com).
Shoogey claims to be an insurance agent and detective-story writer, but not a single bookstore or library in Baltimore carries his work.
Shoogey’s wife is divorcing him. And Ashe, who’s never handled a divorce case, gets roped into representing him.
Things go humorously downhill from there, as Ashe narrates the decline and fall of surely the most intriguing and annoying guy in town.
Shoogey’s failure to come clean with Ashe, for example, leads to the surprise revelation in open court that Shoogey had cheated on his wife with “a hundred, a hundred fifty” women, including two Serenas.
Even Shoogey’s past — which he explains in picaresque and ultimately telling asides, including a story about his killing seven people — seems fishy. Ashe’s wife, Angie, can’t stand Shoogey.
But the reluctant Ashe falls under Shoogey’s spell over lunch at a Cuban-Chinese restaurant: “He uttered one lovely phrase after another. He quoted Christopher Marlowe and Teddy Roosevelt and Walt Whitman and Thomas Hobbes and Abraham Lincoln. He was cheerful, and he was grave, and he moved from one to the other with amphibious ease, his face hanging before me, taking over the room.”
Kun’s novel is equally a character portrait of Ashe, who is stiff, sarcastic and uninspired before Shoogey comes tapping at his door late one night.
Shoogey, who never says or does anything at the appropriate time, forces Ashe to live a little by inviting him on a fishing trip in the middle of a workday and conning him into a day trip to New York City. But he also helps Ashe see that reality is often more about the footnotes, sidebars and unspoken thoughts than stated “facts.”
Many of Kun’s endnotes contain tidbits of trivia, reminders to the reader, apologies to people he may have offended and direct pleas to his “editor” to delete lines from the text: “I removed that last sentence. I crossed it out with red ink, and you know it,” and “Diane! Please. I’m begging you. Please remove this. Please.”
The nice woman with the British accent who answered the phone at MacAdam/Cage Publishing told me Kun’s editor is really someone named Patrick, and that they both have a “pretty sick sense of humor.”
This would seem to be true especially for the Los Angeles-based Kun. His 2003 novel, “The Locklear Letters” (MacAdam/Cage, $19.95), consists of nothing but letters written by a software company marketing director who is obsessed with TV star Heather Locklear.
Reading “You Poor Monster” is physically demanding — what with the flipping back and forth to see endnotes — but the delightful absurdity of the experience, along with Kun’s belly-ache-inducing wit, makes it a rewarding pursuit.
Tyrone Beason: 206-464-2251 or firstname.lastname@example.org