As was mentioned in this writer's debut review printed some weeks ago in these pages, Lenny Castellaneta was working on a new novel. Well, it's here, and there's bad news and not-quite-so-bad news. The bad news is, this one is not much better than the first. The second part of this scrambled motto is this is slightly better than the first.
Certainly, the first thing that captures our interest as a reader is the title - what is the book about? Or is there something in the big letters adorning the outside cover that might lead us to some literature that might truly engage us? Sad to say, this title has so little to do with this book that it seems as if the author lost a bet and was forced to use this address as the moniker of his sophomoric - I could have said sophomoronic, but I didn't - attempt.
The lead character is suffering through the typical slings and whacks of holiday depression when wham, blooey, snap, crackle and bop, he's thrust back in time, meets his current landlady (who has turned into some sort of mindless halfwit), turns her life around, meets his friends in their younger days, and supposedly learns about himself.
And all of this just happens. There is no reason for his returning to a place in time prefacing what he's now experiencing, and this reviewer truly has no clue why this has happened. This isn't a book of science fiction, it's not a thriller by any means, and it barely falls into the category of fiction. Honestly, it's a new category - let's call it friction, the sound a page makes as you trudge through yet another chapter meant to enlighten and ending up in doing little more than making you angry that you even opened the front cover at all.
In his defense, the writer has learned to develop his characters a little better and seems to understand that a storyline must carry through the "entire" book, not just when the whim hits him.
Certainly, this author probably sounds like my own personal whipping boy, but trust me, nothing would have given me greater joy than to have opened to page one and encountered a novel of depth and passion and human comedy. But what I found on page one, sentence one, was "My name's Arthur. I get in trouble a lot 'cause my boss thinks I'm a wise guy." For honey sakes, Castellaneta, this is all you've learned in writing two entire books?
If you liked the first one, you'll love this one. If you hated the first one, you'll hate this one even more, even though it's a slightly better book - because he should have learned something about the terribly demanding and difficult craft of writing, and he hardly learned anything. And for that, his punishment is a low grade and the curse of being stuck with only two books on a desert island - this one and his first one.