Grimsley's hollow fantasy of upper-middle-class homicide has little to do with forgiveness. Three years after being laid off from his senior job at Arthur Anderson, Charley Stranger can no longer support the haute California lifestyle he and his spoiled, Botoxed wife, Carmine, are used to. Carmine wants a divorce, knowing Charley is no longer bothering to look for work, though it takes a visit from their obese banker son, Frankie, to realize the true extent of the financial damage. The fights are nasty: Carmine tells Charley he looks like "[o]ne of the fucking Teletubbies.... the purple one, the grey one." Meanwhile, Charley rehearses his violent thoughts in imaginary exchanges with famous actresses and interviewers like Barbara Walters, and in running sitcom scripts that chronicle years' of the family's mutual scorn. When Charley actually kills Carmine and Frank, the murders are described in some detailâ€”as part of a literary tongue-in-cheek, of course. Grimsley's tale is a single-minded, scathingly unfunny look at American materialism. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Forgivenessby Jim Grimsley
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"The Lifetime movie of my divorce and crime spree will be entitled Breakdown at Midnight. . . . Sympathy for my character will be established by my loss of a wildly respectable, lucrative job with Arthur Andersen, a company which turned out to be as crooked as its customers. I will be another orphan of the American Dream gone sour, and eventually I will give in to the so-called dark side of my nature when I strangle Carmine with the strap of her Prada bag, or stab her to death with a survivalist-quality knife, or bludgeon her skull to a bloody pulp with a classic Tiffany lamp; this part of the script will have to wait for the real event to unfold since, though I've decided that tomorrow will be the day I kill her, I have yet to choose how."-Charley StrangerTurning headline news into biting social satire, Jim Grimsley exposes the amorality of materialistic America in Forgiveness, a blackly comic tale of a bankrupt accounting executive who dreams of achieving stardom in the only way a pathetic failure can-by murdering his wife. As Charley Stranger imagines the crime, he fantasizes wildly unlikely encounters with celebrities-sharing marital woes with Nicole Kidman over a latte at Starbucks, being interviewed by Barbara Walters-while in real life his wife Carmine incessantly ridicules his inability to perform either in bed or in the marketplace. As Forgiveness veers to its shocking conclusion, it strips bare the corruption of the American Dream-the moral bankruptcy of corporate and political institutions, the hollowness of living in a media-saturated world, the delusion of buying love with luxury goods.
With this black comedy about America's obsession with wealth, TV, and celebrities, Grimsley (Winter Birds) offers a contemporary version of Camus's The Stranger, but he is not entirely successful. His protagonist, Charley Stranger, is modeled partly on Camus's existentially troubled protagonist. Both are oddly detached from the world, and both commit a senseless murder. In the humorous first section of Grimsley's novel, Charley narrates a Lifetimemovie version of his ruined life. He has lost his high-powered job at Arthur Andersen and hasn't worked in two years. All he cares about is finding a way to become famous by killing his wife. This seems like harmless venting, so it comes as a shock when he actually stabs both his wife and his son to death. Such violence seems preposterous here, and it feels at odds with the humorous tone of the previous passages. This is unfortunate because Stranger's obsessive musings about celebrities and brand names offer a stinging critique of American culture. An ambitious but flawed novel; recommended for libraries with large modern fiction collections.
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Meet the Author
JIM GRIMSLEY is an award-winning novelist and playwright. He recently received the prestigious Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among his previous novels are Kirith Kirin, a Lambda Literary Award winner; My Drowning, a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award winner; Dream Boy, winner of the American Library Association Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Book Award for Literature; Comfort and Joy, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award; and Winter Birds, a PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award citation winner. He lives in Atlanta, where he is the Senior Writer-in-Residence at Emory University.
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