Better

Overview

"John O'Brien was a stunningly talented writer who created poetry from the most squalid materials."—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City

Within the walls of a foreboding mansion situated in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, the suave Double Felix plays host to an array of beautiful women as well as his unlikely sidekick William. The mysterious patriarch grants his live-in guests’ every wish while asking nothing in return. Days begin with William and Double Felix ...

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Overview

"John O'Brien was a stunningly talented writer who created poetry from the most squalid materials."—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City

Within the walls of a foreboding mansion situated in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, the suave Double Felix plays host to an array of beautiful women as well as his unlikely sidekick William. The mysterious patriarch grants his live-in guests’ every wish while asking nothing in return. Days begin with William and Double Felix discussing their conquests with the ladies over morning Vodka, a ritual that is nonetheless edged in homoerotic tension. From there the drinking continues, only to be interrupted by some miscellany—perhaps a rerun of The Love Boat or some casual sex.

But the ongoing torpor has been upset by the house's newest arrival, a stunning young woman named Laurie, with whom both Double Felix and William become hopelessly smitten. Trash-talking Maggie and Zipper, the hooker who flew in on a trick and never left, smolder with envy while Laurie garners more and more attention from the men.

As tensions spiral out of control, the house—an almost anthropomorphic entity in itself—ejects some of its denizens while further ensnaring others. Eventually, each faces the same ultimatum: leave or stay. The decision is fraught with consequence.

Better delves deep into the psyche of its subjects through an intricate web of cultural icons, loyalty, covert communications, and sex. John O'Brien's characters loom in and out of a surreal world that seems to float high above the rest of us, but is in fact firmly tethered to the human condition.

John O'Brien was born in 1960 and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to Los Angeles in 1982 with his then-wife Lisa. During his lifetime, he was a busboy, file clerk, and coffee roaster, but writing was his true calling. He committed suicide in April 1994 at age thirty-three. His published fiction includes Leaving Las Vegas, The Assault on Tony's, and Stripper Lessons.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The newest novel from Leaving Las Vegas author O'Brien (1960-1994) imagines a Los Angeles house full of shut-ins, alcoholics, prostitutes and quasi-philosophers. Like the other residents in his atypical household, narrator William pays no rent, buys no groceries and has no knowledge of how Double Felix, the group's benefactor, pays for their indulgent lifestyle. Unconcerned with the mystery, William spends his days focusing on his attraction to Double Felix and newcomer Laurie, as well as drinking excessively, watching The Love Boat and sleeping with his sometimes-girlfriend Zipper. As both William and Double Felix vie for Laurie's affection, the plot begins clicking with a wild rivalry and jealous domestic partners. Unfortunately, the dustup comes too little, too late; the deed, when it's finally done, with Laurie, does curiously little to affect anyone. A predictable climax answers some questions, but isn't the jaw-dropper it's set up to be. Though basket-case William is an entertaining narrator, this third posthumous work from O'Brien is largely unsatisfying, leaving readers to wonder what a final revision from the late author could have produced. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933354828
  • Publisher: Akashic Books
  • Publication date: 8/1/2009
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author


John O'Brien was born in 1960 and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to Los Angeles in 1982 with then-wife Lisa. During his lifetime, he was a busboy, file clerk, and coffee roaster, but writing was his true calling. He committed suicide in April 1994 at age 33.
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