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Middle Men

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Gavin’s comic gift and sharp eye for fatuousness are evident in “Elephant Doors.” The main character, Adam, would seem at first to know what he’s doing: He’s a production assistant at a Hollywood TV-studio complex – a lowly position, yes, but the envy of those less fortunate. Alas, his real ambition is to be a stand-up comic. He attends a weekly open-mike event, a gruelingly awful affair held under the auspices of an aging stoner and bar owner called Frankie: “Every Friday, Frankie sat in the back of his crappy bar, laughing generously and running outrageous tabs. Adam thought of Father Damien among the lepers."

The prospect of what Adam is sure will be a knockout performance at the mike brings him a sense of his future: "He looked down Lincoln Boulevard, a treeless span of auto body shops, futon outlets, and discount shoe emporiums. Adam savored these sights, knowing that someday, in a nostalgic mood, he would look back fondly on his tawdry origins." The problem is, as his act shows with excruciating clarity, Adam is profoundly unfunny, and after his performance his spirits take a dive: "He was waiting for something to click. In books and interviews all of his comic heroes had described a moment onstage when, after stumbling for many years, they suddenly, and oftentimes, inadvertently, became themselves.” His existential predicament is typical of Gavin's characters:  "He imagined the two versions of himself – the young fraud and the old pro – standing on either side of a dark chasm. If there was some blessed third version of himself, the middle man who could bridge the gap, Adam saw no trace of him in the darkness." 

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