Sunday, November 17, 2013

Middle Men by Jim Gavin

What makes a man a man

I enjoyed this book of full bodied generous stories about SoCal men with a liking for Del Taco and predilection for bad choices. Many of these stories I had already read in the little magazines, and unfortunately, for a few, the second reading was a bit duller than the first. But for the remainder I had a deepening appreciation. Los Angeles is the setting for most of them, the freeways and the palm trees and the loquacious dreamers. The standard plot is a dopey LA mick (frankly I didn’t even know that those existed) confronting the world’s cruelties and idiocies. At a certain point the man/boy has to decide if he wants to and if he is capable of growing up. Finally, the stories are funny.

I didn’t really like Elephant Doors – news flash – big Hollywood producer is a douche bag. I liked Bermuda about a good hearted kid who follows an older slightly crazy woman to Bermuda. The vivid settings and the dialogue were wonderful and in the middle the story took off in a completely different direction. I preferred the stories that had more of a plot to them rather than heavily evocative descriptions of meatheads. I also liked Bewildered Decisions in the Time of Mercantile Terror about a crazy guy in Berkeley leaning on his very sane cousin. The final “story” is a two part novella about a father son pair of plumbing salesmen, the father very good at his trade and the son not good at all.  Each grieves in his own way for the dead wife and mother. It’s about people scrimping and saving for the American dream. Will they even recognize it once they have it?

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