Boonville by Robert Mailer Anderson, Paperback | Barnes & Noble


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by Robert Mailer Anderson

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Surrounded by misfits, rednecks, and counterculture burnouts, John Gibson—the reluctant heir of an alcoholic grandmother—and Sarah McKay—a commune-reared "hippie-by-association"—search for self and community in the hole-of-a-town Boonville. As they try to assemble from the late-twentieth-century jumble of life the facts of sexuality, love,


Surrounded by misfits, rednecks, and counterculture burnouts, John Gibson—the reluctant heir of an alcoholic grandmother—and Sarah McKay—a commune-reared "hippie-by-association"—search for self and community in the hole-of-a-town Boonville. As they try to assemble from the late-twentieth-century jumble of life the facts of sexuality, love, and death, and face the possibility of an existence without God, John and Sarah learn what happens when they dare to try to make art from their lives.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
What we demand from a novel like this one is not subtlety but steamroller prose, which is exactly what Boonville delivers. — Mary Park
Publishers Weekly
An eclectic knot of hippies, rednecks, marijuana growers, assorted eccentrics and Miami expatriates inhabit the California town of Boonville, pop. 715. Anderson's debut novel is a jolting journey among these misfits, occasionally witty and insightful but more often rambling, losing its way amid too many disparate pop culture references and unwieldy attempts at edgy prose ("Outside the apartment, Florida air hung as hot and tight as a sunbather's butt thong"). John Gibson leaves an empty life in sunny Miami after a tussle with his girlfriend and heads west to the house his grandmother bequeathed him in Boonville. Upon arriving, he immediately runs afoul of the locals, an odd mixture of inbred hill people and various contingents of hippies, including leftovers from the 1960s and a more contemporary crop. He's relieved when he meets commune-raised Sarah McKay, with whom he feels a connection, probably because she's remotely normal and beautiful. Sarah has her own set of issues to plow through, however, which she does in interminable fashion. The plot hinges on John's attempts to escape beatings by Sarah's ex-husband, a violence-prone redneck, and his interaction with the denizens of Boonville. Characters like the grossly fat Pensive Prairie Sunset, a counterculture holdout who spouts hackneyed lines about male patriarchy and Eastern religion, fall flat. The narrative relies so heavily on the far-out and fantastical that when it attempts to ground itself in human feeling, it scrambles for solid footing. In the end, Boonville is just another place where dreams stagnate. Agent, Jack Scovil. (Jan. 14) Forecast: When it was first published in hardcover in 2001 by the Creative Arts Book Company, Boonville garnered praise from Jonathan Lethem, Norman Mailer and Carl Hiaasen, among others. Its original word-of-mouth success should help sales of this paperback edition. Six-city author tour. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

What People are saying about this

Martin Cruz Smith
Robert Mailer Anderson is a young writer of energy, style and wit. Those three qualities may not sell books in today's hyper-market, but I found them charming.
Jonathan Lethem
Robert Mailer Anderson's a brilliant new voice - twitchy, corny, sly, cackling and sad, but most of all, racing with vitality and goosing you to keep up. Boonville is the creepy and hilarious coming-of-age story the territory deserves - not your parents' Vineland, but your own.
Naomi Wolf
Boonville heralds the debut of an engaging, clear-eyed new talent. Robert Mailer Anderson has achieved an engrossing vision of tangled lives on the edge of the world, and done it on an ambitious scale. He has drawn the Northern California counterculture scene, its mores and wildnesses, with a fresh, original hand. Best of all, he is writing as one of the rare members of his emerging generation that brings a true moral and philosophical depth to his edgy subject matter.
Carl Hiassen
Robert Mailer Anderson is a very sick man - and a very funny writer.
Norman Mailer
Because I think Boonville by Robert Mailer Anderson is terrific, I am obliged to state that he is not relative. He has, however, written a most exciting first novel and gives more than a few signs that he could become a member of that vanishing American breed - a major novelist.

Meet the Author

Robert Mailer Anderson was born in San Francisco in 1968, three years before his parents were divorced. He was the fifth generation of his family — a clan comprised largely of railroad workers, San Quentin prison guards, and tamale vendors — to be raised across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Rafael. He spent every other weekend and summers with his father in Mendocino County, reading, playing sports, and accompanying his father to his business, a home for juvenile delinquents, where young Anderson encountered some "hard cases" who were later convicted of, among other crimes, armed robbery, rape, and murder. One former resident, David Mason, was executed by the state. Several others are on death row.

At age fourteen, Anderson moved in with his father "full time" and, due to financial constraints, the group home. He started high school in Ukiah, where he was routinely kicked out of classes. He took a year off from school and played golf. He developed a gambling habit. He began contributing articles to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, where his uncle, Bruce Anderson, was editor and publisher. Eventually, he graduated from Anderson Valley High School in Boonville. He played three varsity sports and was MVP of the NCL III in baseball. He was student body president until he was impeached.

Pursuing a career in baseball, Anderson matriculated to the University of Miami, where he did not play. He was then transferred to the College of Marin, where he pitched and played first base for a semester and a half before packing his possessions into the trunk of a "borrowed" Cadillac, cashing his student loan check, and heading to Mexico.

When the money ran out, he moved to New York City, where he had a series of unfulfilling jobs: selling suits, telemarketing, moving furniture, and temping. He did stand-up comedy, once. He played basketball at West Fourth Street. He was accepted into a creative writing tutorial taught by Shelby Hearon at the Ninety-second Street Y.

In 1995, Anderson's short story "36-28-34-7" was published by Christopher Street. He began referring to himself as "the heterosexual voice of gay lit."

Anderson lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children, son Dashiell and daughter Lucinda. He is co-owner of Quotidian art gallery and is on the board of the San Francisco Opera Association. Boonville is his first novel.

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Boonville 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a wildly funny and at the same time a very serious novel that had great insights into both small-town America and the world at large.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book begins with a great premise but the author fails to develop the plot and ruins what could have been a great novel. The reader is left with a disappointing ending. Perhaps a drug using reader may get more out of this than I did. The author had some good observations & there were a few humorous parts but overall this was not a great piece of literature. Save your money for a better book than this!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was funny. I am an old hippie, and proud of it. Furthermore, I live in a town in Iowa that is an old hippie hangout. I could identify with the book from my home and telling my own kids about life in the '60s and '70s. The main character, John, missing out on the hippie generation is trying to reconcile his late grandmother's hippie lifestyle while falling in love with a hippie. John does a lot of flash back to his recent yuppie lifestyle, college days, and trappings he lived in. In the end I think he has become a hippie by association. I hope the author gives a second look at Boonville. I was left wondering about John and Sarah
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am mystified by the positive reviews for this book. It reads like the work of a high school student, determined to get back at the small town stuck in his craw. According to the jacket, the author is in his 30's; so why is he still so obsessed with incompetent parents and half-wit bullies? 'Boonville' is badly written and unfunny
Guest More than 1 year ago
Boonville is a hilarious story with great writing and an ending that you'll never forget. I laughed out loud. Cutting edge literature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw the blurbs by Carl Hiaasen, Norman Mailer, Naomi Wolf, Jonathan Lethem and Martin Cruz Smith, and read the book, surprised that what they all said was true: this is a great first novel. For anyone who likes literature, a good laugh, or has lived a day in California.
Guest More than 1 year ago
His creativity brought me right into the book!