Abbreviating Ernie

Abbreviating Ernie

by Peter Lefcourt
     
 

The author of The Deal, The Dreyfuss Affair and Di and I creates a laugh-out-loud, sharp-edged, breathless farce. When a cross-dressing urologist from New York suffers a massive, fatal heart attack while having sex with his wife--who's handcuffed to the stove at the time--complications ensue. 320 pp. 25,000 print.  See more details below

Overview

The author of The Deal, The Dreyfuss Affair and Di and I creates a laugh-out-loud, sharp-edged, breathless farce. When a cross-dressing urologist from New York suffers a massive, fatal heart attack while having sex with his wife--who's handcuffed to the stove at the time--complications ensue. 320 pp. 25,000 print.

Editorial Reviews

Stephanie Zacharek

If Peter Lefcourt were just another straight-faced, funny-yet-regular guy hooked on his own lacerating wit, it would be pretty easy to take him or leave him. But he's got a rare gift. Although he writes like one of those likable, honest Joes with a backwards-turned baseball cap, before you know it, he's pulled a fast one on you -- and you realize he's an honest Joe who takes no prisoners.

The premise of Abbreviating Ernie -- the successor to Lefcourt's sly, delightful novel Di and I -- could have been lifted straight from some alternate suburban universe. Ernie, a middle-aged cross-dressing urologist, croaks while he's making love to his vacant, Prozac-addicted wife, Audrey. She's handcuffed to the stove at the time and, unfortunately, his tumescent member's gotten stuck. Luckily, she's just able to reach a nearby electric carving knife -- and the rest is history. She's arrested and brought to trial, and her case becomes a magnet for a loopy circle of characters including a Native-American deaf-mute burglar of modest aspirations (his name's Emmanuel Longhouse), a pair of dueling tabloid journalists, a small-time old-school detective and a frumpy, knee-sock-wearing lawyer who's dead-set on turning shallow, drippy Audrey into a feminist icon. (There's also a Rottweiler who just may have the answer to the question: Where's the missing schlong?) Abbreviating Ernie is a yummy little satire of mass-media feeding frenzies, but it's one that swings. Even when Lefcourt's at his nastiest, his prose is like a badminton birdie lobbed high into the air: "In addition to opportunity and motive, the prosecution had the urological argument, or, as D'Imbroglio referred to it, the hard-on theory. They could argue that in order for Ernest Haas' penis to be cut off, it had to be erect, and if it was erect, blood was flowing through it and therefore he had to be alive. And if Ernest Haas was alive, Audrey Haas showed depraved indifference to his well-being by severing his penis." Lefcourt also knows that there's nothing like a little love interest to spice up all that dismemberment and depravity, and he's not shy about revealing his dirty little secret: He's a hard-core romantic. When, after circling each other for most of the novel, two of Lefcourt's most appealing characters finally tumble into bed, their pleasure is both delicious and hard-earned. Lefcourt plays the moment beautifully: He's fearless when it comes to all that mushy stuff. He makes me think of that great exchange in Never Say Never Again when Barbara Carrera makes a grand entrance on water skis, spraying water all over Sean Connery's sport-jacketed James Bond. "I've made you all wet, James," she says. And he replies, "Yes, but my martini's still dry." That's Abbreviating Ernie: Dry in all the right places -- and wet where it really counts. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Daunting as the challenge might be to conceive a tale more farcical than the reality of national manias like the O.J. trial and the mutilation of John Wayne Bobbitt, Lefcourt (Di and I) meets it in this amusing, if uneven, satire. Schenectady, N.Y., urologist Ernie Haas likes to dress in women's clothes and have sex in unconventional places with his Prozac-dependent wife, Audrey. When he handcuffs her to the kitchen stove and suffers a fatal heart attack during their coupling, Audrey is trapped by his weight and his unflagging tumescence. Finding an electric carving knife, she severs Ernie's penis and works her way free of him-only to find that her troubles have just begun. In comes a benevolent burglar, then the cops intent on finding the missing penis, then the voyeuristic reporters, then the crusading lawyers, then the outraged special interest groups and, finally, the movie and publishing vultures, who circle around Audrey's high-profile trial. Lefcourt grafts on a gratuitous romance between rival reporters and closes with an epilogue that is uncharacteristically rote. He builds real suspense throughout Audrey's absurd trial, however, and packs his outrageous narrative with well-aimed zingers and barbed bits of wit. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Movie/TV writer and novelist Lefcourt (Di and I, 1994, etc.) hits new lows with this sporadically comic tale of a cross-dressing Schenectady, New York, urologist who dies with his pantyhose down. A real groaner ripped straight from yesterday's headlines.

Blond, vacuous Audrey Haas leads an apparently idyllic life in the suburbs as the wife of a doctor, free of the responsibilities of kids and job. In fact, things would be perfect if only husband Ernie didn't enjoy dressing in her clothes and having sex in "inappropriate" places while wearing her pantyhose. Oh, well—Audrey puts up with his games if for no other reason than that he enjoys them so much, and so finds herself chained to her stove one spring afternoon, watching TV while her high-heeled husband penetrates her from behind. This time, though, something goes wrong: Ernie has a heart attack and dies during the sex act, pinning his wife beneath him. Oh, dear, what to do? Practical Audrey hits on the idea of severing Ernie's member with her electric carving knife, thus allowing him to slide off her and down to the floor. Just as she does so, a solitary, deaf-mute Indian breaks into the house, and after robbing it leaves some food for Audrey and anonymously faxes the local police to come give her a hand. From the moment Audrey is rescued and her husband found penis-less, the predictable feeding frenzy begins, as ambitious reporters, feminist attorneys, pressured prosecutors, and world- weary detectives struggle to manipulate Dr. Ernie Haas's gruesome murder to serve their own selfish ends.

Broad humor, very easy targets, and a virtually brain-dead heroine make for mediocre social satire, but Lefcourt is good for a cheap laugh now and then.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679439509
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/04/1997
Pages:
301
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.07(d)

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