William Monahan Light House

ISBN 13: 9781573221580

Light House

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9781573221580: Light House
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...In which a coastal New England bed & breakfast is turned on its ear during a nor'easter by an outrageous cast of characters as follows... Tim Picasso is a handsome young intellectual and frustrated painter. Turned down for an art fellowship (too heterosexual, not ethnic enough), his financial prospects dwindling, he finds himself accidentally involved in a drug deal. Resourcefully, he makes the drop but flees with the proceeds to the peaceful anonymity of the Admiral Benbow Inn. His fellow guests include an eccentric band of misfits: a bitter journalist from New York, with a personal vendetta against: a famous novelist who is there to give a fiction workshop, which is canceled-no one can make it through the storm, except (inexplicably): a Cuban Mafia don in pursuit of Tim and the missing cash, but distracted by both the innkeeper's philandering wife and: a cross-dressing contractor, who is restoring (and trapped in) the old lighthouse out at the point. Thus the stage is set for a weekend frolic of serendipitous coincidences, a theatrical series of mistaken identities, detours of sexual experimentation, and whiskey-soaked debates. Tempers and hormones flare with the storm. As the gale whips up, and waves crash through the windows of the billiards room, the unlikely stable of guests are forced to hunker down to wait out the tempest. Full of wit and literary spoofs and riffs, Monahan's biting prose and artful storytelling leaves its impression long after the lighthouse has blown away.

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Review:

Light House is not a novel for the culturally illiterate. Its sentences loop with gratuitous references and even more gratuitous jokes, all courtesy of former Spy editor William Monahan. Now defunct, Monahan's former employer used to publish the monthly Spy List, a litany of random cultural phenomena, which induced hilarity in the initiated and left everyone else feeling cross. Thankfully, this fictional debut strikes a happier balance: that is, more hilarity, less crossness.

The protagonist, Tim Picasso, is a young artist of genius who stumbles into a life of crime. Excelling in his new career, he ends up stealing a million dollars from Miami kingpin Jesus Castro. Tim flees, finding his way to a Massachusetts bed-and-breakfast called the Admiral Benbow. Innkeepers George and Magdalene are thrilled to have such a handsome (not to mention paying) guest. And with the introduction of this loathsome couple, the author begins to fire with both guns: "Tall, lank-haired, bespectacled, George went shambling off toward the telephone in the lobby, wearing what Magdalene more or less privately thought of as his cuckold's cardigan." (That "more or less privately thought" is a typically snarky and attractive touch.)

The next batch of guests is a group of fiction workshoppers, with whom Monahan makes free. He mocks everyone in the book, but you get the sense that he really hates these literary pretenders. "Joel Josh O'Connor was a writer of moderate technical gift," we are told, "who was capable of imitating everything, no matter how various in style (which does not, week to week, denote uncommon range), that he had read in the last issue of The New Yorker." The Miami contingent appears on the scene soon after, and Monahan has a good (if racially insensitive) time sending up their thuggery. He does stray occasionally into his old, inside-joke territory: "'You shoot this guy, and I never respect you no more,' said Mr. Castro very seriously, in a line written in 1991 and published serially with cult success in 1994 without winning anything the way some people apparently did with it." This kind of thing makes most sensible people very tired. Still, by the time a nor'easter blows the lid off the place, Monahan's delightfully silly novel has earned its absurd, roof-raising conclusion. --Claire Dederer

About the Author:

William Monahan has written a Pushcart-Prize-winning short story, and the screenplay Light House, which has been optioned to Warner Bros. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he is at work on his second novel.

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