Two superstar authors pair up and really deliver the goods, dishing up a terrific high-energy tale of teen love, lust, intrigue, anger, pain, and friendship threaded with generous measures of comedy and savvy counsel. Though the ensemble cast revolves around Tiny Cooper, “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world’s gayest person who is really, really large,” the central characters are the two titular narrators, who share a name (but don’t meet until partway through) and trade off alternate chapters. One Will has been Tiny’s satellite for years but is starting to chafe at the role—especially after Tiny forcibly sets him up with Jane, an infuriatingly perfect match. The other, whose clinical depression is brilliantly signaled by an all-lowercase narrative and so intensely conveyed that his early entries are hard to read, sees at least a glimmer of light fall on his self-image after a chance meeting with Tiny sparks a wild mutual infatuation. The performance of an autobiographical high-school musical that Tiny writes, directs, and stars in makes a rousing and suitably theatrical finale for a tale populated with young people engaged in figuring out what’s important and shot through with strong feelings, smart-mouthed dialogue, and uncommon insight.
From National Book Award-winner Alexie comes a new collection of stories, poems, question and answer sequences, and hybrids of all three and beyond. In a penetrating voice that mixes humor with anger, Alexie pointedly asks, "If it is true that children pay for the sins of their fathers, then is it also true that fathers pay for the sins of their children?" Many of the stories revolve around the complexities of fatherhood; in the title story, the Native American narrator recalls his alcoholic father's death as he confronts his own mortality, and "The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless" is the tale of an eccentric vintage clothing salesman whose sexual attraction to his wife fades following the birth of their children. The collection also contains stirring defenses of artistic integrity; "Fearful Symmetry" is an incisive account of working as a young screenwriter for a Hollywood studio, and the poem "Ode to Mix Tapes" endorses hard work as the key ingredient behind any creation. Alexie unfurls highly expressive language, and while at times his jokes bomb and the characters' anger can feel forced, overall this is a spiritedly provocative array of tragic comedies. (Oct.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.