Review of Jeff Parker’s OVENMAN

I’ve been drinking more, behaving exponentially more reckless, and eating a shit ton more pizza after having read this book. Jeff Parker’s Ovenman exists between “anti-hero saga” and “tale of this stupid fucking oaf I knew in college.” His protagonist, the (appropriately?) named When Thinfinger is the posterchild for self-destructive behavior and “came of age but still don’t give a shit either way.”

I won’t summarize the novel for you, but I will say that this book is the best thing I’ve read since the turn of the New Year. It’s mundane in the best way; in that I am reading with ease and continually pleased with the matter-of-fact manner in which he describes a penial piercing, or that I completely buy into When’s nightly blackouts and collection of Post-It reminders that he turns into hardcore lyrics.  As a reader, I was sucked into the culture. I haven’t skated or listened to hardcore music since my high school days, but in addition to the surplus in beers, I’ve dusted off my old skateboard and played some As I Lay Dying (my generation’s Slayer).

As I finished the book, and When Thinfinger seems to have adjusted to the weird changes in his life, I contemplated quitting my job, buying a RV, and finding a job washing dishes. However, I’m twenty-five, married, and the window for the kind of shit has closed on my life. Maybe that’s why I appreciated Oveman as much as I did. It reminded me of my own Tallahassee days, when I was a freshman at Florida State. I had friends who chained their bicycles on an upstairs railing. I frequently took girls to Decent Pizza. I’d get drunk and go sleep next to the girl with the memory foam mattress one building over, just because we enjoyed the company.

This novel isn’t quite angst, and I dug that a lot. Parker avoids the melodrama of “inner conflict” and just gives us the shit that happens. Kudos to you, Parker, and thanks for the wild ride.

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