Thursday, January 11, 2007

To The Sargasso Sea by William McPherson

I'm a sucker for any book that even remotely deals with London and its theatre so when I read the cover blurb and saw that it was a story of a playwright on the verge of a success at London's Royal Court, I was hooked.

Andrew McCalister, the playwright, is married to a lovely woman named Ann and has a darling little daughter named Julia. When he is not watching porn movies being made in the apartment across the way or rooting around with various men and women, he is telling delightful bedtime stories to his daughter about a snake, an armadillo, and a kangaroo who are trying hard to get to Australia. Unfortunately for the author those stories turn out to be more interesting than most of the rest of the book. I kept wanting more of the run-ins of the vegetarian cobra and his friends with the dowager Duchess of Dork, but we always kept coming back to the sour and conflicted playwright, who turns out to be the real Dork. He seems capricious, spoiled, arbitrary, and incapable of much in the way of self control. He also has far more money to throw around than any aspiring playwright in history. It's hard to figure how one opening of a play at the Royal Court qualifies the man and his family to frequent the Ritz, the Connaught, and a number of other posh watering holes. At one point Andrew opines that "There's nothing like a shitload of money to smooth life's little bumps and ridges." That might be true, but I'm still not quite sure where his all came from. The stretch of reality continues when a possible producer of his show in New York takes everyone to Bermuda and spends more on the partying than it might have cost to capitalize the show. All told this was one of those books that you find yourself skimming ever more frequently the closer you get to the end and it is not because you are anxious to see how it comes out. It is primarily because the main character gets progressively more tiresome. As they say, better luck next time--if there is one.

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