Fat on the Vine is the story of “lil big sexy” whose basic gist is that he’s an overweight, post-grad, whose sex life is DOA and suffers from major overbearing mother issues. I don’t think I would be too far off base to hazard the guess that the majority of this novel is semi-autobiographical, as it basically reads like a bunch of diary entries. When I read anything lately, I’ve caught myself with the tendency to look for novels whose main characters are relatable fuck-ups. This book promised just that, but there’s an ill-defined line where someone can either be a loser you want to empathize with or just be a flat-out asshole. I’ve noticed the tendency in Bukowski novels to cross this line. Sometimes Chinaski seemed to be a perfect literary analogue for anybody who has ever felt shit on, but then, sometimes, it would just go too far and make you want to say, “Okay, enough’s enough; maybe your life wouldn’t be so shitty if you weren’t such a douche bag.” That summarizes my sentiment of this book.
The first thing that one encounters when reading this novel is that it really is a labor of love to get through the whole thing, because the whole thing’s divided into dense, rambling paragraphs where the only real concession to basic grammar is the tendency to finish every sentence with five periods. There’s a part near the end where “lil big sexy” talks about how every misspelling, typo, odd abbreviation, etc… in the novel is on purpose, but there are a ton of things in the novel that are definitely just typos and poor editing. The novel focuses on “lil big sexy”’s search for someone to replace his one love Julie, and his need to find meaning or purpose to his life while he half-assedly tries to earn his English Ph.D. Basically picture John Belushi’s character from Animal House mixed with the Dude from The Big Lebowski, strip away most of the likeable aspectsof the two and you have “lil big sexy.” After the first fifty or so pages of him describing his partying, looking for sex/love, talking about drugs, his overbearing mom, and his philosophies of “swerving” the system, the book just basically goes into repeat mode and goes nowhere for the rest of its length.
As I said, at first wanted to empathize with “lil big sexy”, but after a while I couldn’t really stand him. There’s only so much you can listen to a guy talking about how cool drinking and driving is, about how he steals any panties he can get his hands on, wants to squeeze young, fresh, titties, how he loves/hates his mom/Julie/some girl before you just want to get away from them. Someone can write about revolution and taking on the system as much as they want, but when most of that seems to consist of sitting at home and masturbating all day, it quickly loses its luster to someone reading along.
In summation, this book feels like the literary equivalent of those weird “friends” you would tolerate hanging around in grade school despite not liking them much; the kind who would claim to be your best friend and then do something fucked up like shove you over or spit on you and laugh, and then calls you a baby when you asked what their problem was. You have no idea why you put up with them in the first place, but you did until you finally were able to separate from them at some point and let them blossom into the jock/bully/asshole they were destined to be. That’s my feelings once I finished this novel. At least the book was striving for honesty and didn’t hold anything back. I’ll give it that. Now if only that honesty, was something worth reading. –Adrian Salas (ULA Press, 4686 Meridian Rd., Williamston MI 48895)