Currently I am reading two books, but I put both of them on hold for a few days when, through a twisting path worthy of a Kinky Friedman novel – well – I came into temporary possession of… a Kinky Friedman novel. Monkey Boy, a colleague here in Mie, decided to aid his house cleaning efforts by relieving himself of the burden of myriad books left in succession by his predecessors at his work-provided apartment. Perusing the list I selected a number of volumes of which I hope to write forthwith; however, one volume caught my eye in a peculiar way that niggled or tickled my interest, but not to that point where I selected it. I convinced a friend from Nabari – who was coming to my home to receive my former gas range – to tote the books with him on the way. Some juggling occurred when a colleague in Ise asked if I could get that same book from Monkey Boy for him. On Saturday’s range-getting trip my friend delivered The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover by J. Edgar Hoover; and a few emails generated a plan for my Ise colleague to visit Wednesday after work. Mind you, my life is not so lonely that the sole purpose of the visit is to pass a book: we’ll talk over some home-brewed coffee and plot the salvation of the masses while he’s here.
During my time in Texas, I was introduced to Kinky through my subscription to Texas Monthly which contained his column. As a Chicago-born, Jewish cowboy one might consider him unique, but add to that his work as musician, writer and aspiring politician and you’ve got one of a kind.
Having less than four days custody of my colleague’s book, I decided to give it a look. Only 238 pages of moderately large print, divided into 49 chapters of 1 to 10 pages in length made it manageable. The book is one in a series of detective novels written with the author himself as the main character: an under-sexed, vulgar, middle-aged, depressed eccentric, living in meager surroundings, and with an eclectic mix of acquaintances.
Friedman makes almost exclusive use of:
- cultural references (predominantly from the 30s to the 70s)
- slang (much of his own construction)
- random trivia (what bird has two feathers for each quill?)
None of which necessarily make for high-quality writing; however, his irreverence and dark satire are probably catchy for a number of readers. All in all, I found that each chapter contained something of interest for me and led me to the next. Under all the dark meandering thoughts of his character, the basic story was amusing and somewhat deep. He chose an interesting little twist of implication on the final page.
I found myself digging through my brain (since I have no internet at the moment) to find the references to historic figures, of which I think I recalled all but one. Since he often mentions fictional characters as if he were name-dropping, it is a little unclear. Many younger readers will find it a challenge unless they are a history buff or are sitting with Google nearby. A few literary references to Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, etc. find their way to the pages as well.
One critique which stands out is that the entire Chapter 42 could be stricken from the book without loss. Basically, two characters participate in a rant against a certain government agency which didn’t serve to advance the story, so much as to just sound preachy. Chapter 43 returned to the same vein as the story and referenced the important points from 42.
Do you like cultural references, satire, irreverence toward powerful government institutions and entendre? This could be for you. Even if you don’t, like me you may find some amusement; after all, any book using the word ‘tump’ has to have a little charm.