I received a copy of this novel from BookLikes in exchange for an honest review.
I really am disappointed that I couldn't like this work more. The writing was absolutely phenomenal. Appel has a true way with words. He provided great descriptions and amazing environments. I loved the concept of a novel within a novel. However, I just could not get over how astonishingly horrid the plot was.
This is a story about a man named Larry Bloom whose most important characteristic is his hyperbolic unattractive and ordinary appearance. The third person narrator must constantly remind the reader that Larry is very plain. The only thing that is mentioned more than Larry's absurd averageappearance is his undying love for a woman named Starshine, a love that defines him as a quiet stalker. The text alternates between vivid descriptions of Larry's day and chapters from his novel, a work of fiction speculating on Starshine's life and her sexual exploits. It was actually difficult for me to finish this book, because it was so disgustingly creepy as it painted a picture of Larry's devotion to Starshine, an entity that is more of a caricature than a real woman, one whose sole existence depends of her unrealistic beauty and the love of every person she comes into contact with.
On top of that, the overall text was heavy with misogynistic ramblings such as, "All pay tribute to life's sole universal truth: A beautiful girl on a bicycle is communal property" (29) in describing the street harassment Starshine faces as she rides down the streets of New York and "It will gain him nothing" (62) when Larry decides not to intervene when a man publicly manhandled a woman, a decision he made after reaching the conclusion that he won't get to be the hero and the woman will most likely not throw herself at him as her knight in shining armor. Not to mention Borasch's attempt at the next Great American Sentence, another reminder of the value of women's beauty and sexual potential.
Even the whole "ugly-man-beautiful-woman" dynamic was overdone and out of date. Larry harshly criticises every woman he comes into contact with as not attractive enough to be worth his time. He dreads Starshine's rejection because he equates it with his eventual fate of ending up with one of these homely women.
Overall, this book made me sick. There were so many sexist descriptions they plauged the pages. I kept crossing my fingers that Appel would find a way to punish those with such backward ideals or at least have someone call them out on the outdated ideology, but instead throughout the novel, Appel presents the sexism as it is and does nothing to combat it.
I would like to read more by Appel, because I feel he has the potential to produce any amazing work based on his vivid descriptions and detailed portraits, but for me, this was not it.