Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: AND THEN ALONG CAME RUDY by Sam Schichter

“Welcome home, Rudy!”—words of hopeless discouragement for our main hero.

Can you blame him? He fled to magnificent Europe to write the great American novel only to return with not even a letter written to his mother.

“Mornings, I would walk up and down the alleyways, through the grand avenue, past the impromptu marketplaces, searching for colourful episodes to put in my novel. But I soon became disillusioned, as well as bewildered. Disillusioned because I was not writing anything of value; bewildered because there were too many of my kind in Paris. Too many would-be Hemingways. I felt they were crowding me. Not letting me be an original. So I decided to push on. But where? Opening up my map of Europe, I skimmed through the countries. Belgium – only has waffles to offer. Holland – too many canals. Norway – too cold. Luxembourg – too small. Spain – too sunny. Italy – too much tutti-fruity art. Greece – too many ruins. Germany – too... too... German? Mozart Germany? Schiller Germany? Concentration camp Germany? No. I couldn’t. My father wouldn’t forgive me. My mother would think I had completely lost my mind.” (7)

I wouldn’t imagine that I’d be able to get through a family dinner with all the constant bickering over the war, the mistreatment of Jews, and how I was making nothing of my life. The problem was that everyone saw him as this unrealistic, guileless simpleton—a “kid with the head in the clouds.”

“I knew then and there what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. God, to be able to write like Salinger!” (39) I totally related to his desire to be a published author, although perhaps he was being a bit naïve thinking he could be a millionaire with it. His dream was to be a best-selling author, and when he received the feedback from the publisher, he got a wake-up call.

It won’t sell.

“What was I to do? Nine months of my life gone down the drain. Nine months of anguish, frustration, fatigue and wavering nerves. Nine months of dreams, hopes and prayers all washed away. Nine months from conception to birth, and now a last minute miscarriage. My baby was dead. How could this be possible? This was to be the all-time best seller. More sales than the Bible. One hundred weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. A Pulitzer prize. A movie. And then the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Why had I made all the sacrifices? For a jackass named Edwin Plaster to tell me that romanticism doesn’t sell? In ten minutes E.P. told me that nine months of my life had been spent on romantic bird dung. I just didn’t understand. What should I do? Spend another six months rewriting and then be told by that rotten publisher that my book is unsellable? Damn you, Edwin Plaster. Damn you to hell and beyond.” (35)

If Nanni Moretti (Caro Diario) was considered the Italian Woody Allen, then Rudy was the Polish Nanni Moretti with his fast talk fueled by sardonic remarks and humorous quips. At times, he tended to babble and swerve off tangent. Did he really need to be so repetitive and redundant? Perhaps he was trying to bring his nervous breakdown to life by making the reader have one too. And can you blame him with being surrounded by the constant drone of neurotic characters? Nonetheless, even with the mild distraction of tedious back-and-forth dialogue (particularly during the court scenes,) Rudy eventually brings you back to the story with his hilarious outbursts.  I loved the part when he’s trying to navigate through the congested Hollywood traffic, trying to get to an audition that closes in like 20 minutes.  Yeah, he should’ve left sooner rather than lounge around the beach for a tan. And, of course, the reader will thoroughly enjoy his floundering attempt to be a porno actor.

Witty and frank, this novel illustrates the aimless journey of a man battling the hazy equilibrium between his fantasies and the reality. What Schichter may not realize was that, on some level, he does write like J.D. Salinger.

My rating: 4 stars

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