Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale


Chuck Kinder's long-awaited and critically acclaimed magnum opus chronicles the misadventures of best friends Ralph Crawford and Jim Stark, two of the most promising writers of their day, and the wives with whom they have spent the best years of their lives raising bad judgment to an art. Kinder captures the late 60's and early 70's in all their splendor and as pointed out in The New York Times Book Review, "It is undoubtedly possible to read this book without knowing that Kinder was a close friend of Raymond ...

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Chuck Kinder's long-awaited and critically acclaimed magnum opus chronicles the misadventures of best friends Ralph Crawford and Jim Stark, two of the most promising writers of their day, and the wives with whom they have spent the best years of their lives raising bad judgment to an art. Kinder captures the late 60's and early 70's in all their splendor and as pointed out in The New York Times Book Review, "It is undoubtedly possible to read this book without knowing that Kinder was a close friend of Raymond Carver. But many of those who pick up this volume about two bad-boy American writers in the making will recognize the general outline of Carver's life."

With affection and self-savaging wit, Kinder captures the siren song of the writer in all its squalor and glory. Honeymooners is both an homage to and a debunking of that mythical figure-the alcoholic, womanizing, swaggering male author.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Legendary Pitt professor Chuck Kinder -- the inspiration for Grady Tripp in Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys -- describes The Honeymooners, his now-legendary novel that was 25 years in the writing, as a "roman à clef of my outlaw writer days in San Francisco." Loosely based on Kinder's friendship with the late short story master Raymond Carver, the novel follows two young writers, Ralph Crawford and Jim Stark, as they race for literary success and vie for the affections of the same woman on the West Coast in the '70s.
Jay McInerney
Like the candy mint that is also a breath mint, it can be enjoyed as either a novel or a memoir. Or, if you prefer, as a metafictional object. Whatever. If Honeymooners doesn't make you laugh, cry and cringe with sympathetic embarrassment, then you should probably adjust your medication immediately.
New York Times Book Review
Time Out New York
Hilarious, heartbreaking.
A hilarious, archly ironic and thoroughly original tale.
San Francisco Chronicle
A wild, careening and unforgettable presence in the garden of American lit.
Walter Kirn
Brisk and lacerating, like vintage Albee.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An exuberant, raunchy romp, Kinder's second novel (after Snakehunter) is a chronicle of two writers who share a "stupendous dream" of fame and freedom in the Bay Area in the 1970s, the heyday of drugs, booze and indiscriminate sex. Aspiring writer Ralph Crawford (based loosely on Raymond Carver); Jim Stark, his sidekick in friendship, ambition and general fecklessness; and the two writers' mistresses and wives never quite recover from their adolescent pranks, cheerful amorality and determined debauchery, despite Crawford's rise to fame. Rarely, however, have scenes of monumental drinking sprees, skipping out on rent and restaurant checks, fierce domestic spats and promiscuous sexual coupling produced such sheer antic hilarity. Despite his outrageous irreverence, Kinder has a tender regard for his characters, who strive so foolhardily for new beginnings . In the midst of their headlong binges, characters allow some mournful insights to pierce their willful hijinks. "The thought occurred to Ralph that we are all identified finally by what we do to other people, and that betrayal is simply another form of loss." Betrayal is endemic here: Ralph betrays his wife, slightly wacky Alice Ann, with his Missoula, Mont., roundheel mistress, Lindsay; Jim betrays his friendship with Ralph by marrying Lindsay; Alice Ann, too, does her bit to turn the tables. Add to these randy shenanigans the exploits of a character named Mary Mississippi, who makes sleeping around (and that's a gentle euphemism) an art and a career. It's the tone of plangent rue just beneath the surface of this rambunctious story that will keep readers rooting for these characters depicted with such brio and compassion. (June) Forecast: If the media pick up on this book's unusual history its long (25 years) gestation and original length of 3,000 manuscript pages, as well as the fact that Kinder was purportedly one inspiration for the protagonist of Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys it might garner feature as well as review coverage. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Remember the character in Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys who simply can't get a novel written? That was reputedly Kinder, and here's the book: the tale of one terrific but very messed-up short story writer. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Rueful and wildly comic, this boisterous, boozy novel by the author of Snakehunter (1973) offers a carnal salute to that disappearing literary species, the unrepentant American bad boy writer. Imagine The Ginger Man set in San Francisco during the 1970s. Kinder sets loose two talented writers, Ralph and Jim, on the West Coast literary world of Ken Kesey and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others, and in the process provides enough sex, booze, pot, friendship, perfidy, betrayal, bad checks, black humor, and politically incorrect insouciance to satisfy almost anyone. Drunk, loquacious, and broke, Ralph Crawford (based loosely on Raymond Carver) is snared in an ongoing love/hate relationship with his wife, the volatile, spirited, foul-mouthed Alice Ann, and with his two thieving teenaged children, who are lost to sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. He's also in love with a woman in Montana, a flower-child goddess named Lindsay with a penchant for budding writers. Ralph enlists his best friend Jim, a tough, laconic writer/occasional drug -dealer, to deliver a packet of letters to Lindsay, and Jim promptly falls in love with her too. He and Lindsay subsequently marry, and Ralph seems to accept this situation, but does he still love his friend's wife? Does she still love him? And will Alice Ann succeed in her latest attempt to rejuvenate her sagging, vindictive marriage to Ralph? Complications ensue, both hilarious and sad, as this foursome and various lowlife literary friends careen around the Bay Area, drinking, partying, fighting, walking out on checks, placating the police, and trying to resolve their romantic entanglements. As the story progresses, Ralph publishes a short story collection, andJima novel, both to critical acclaim, but neither event has much immediate impact on the messy particulars of their lives. Easy, accessible prose tinged with nostalgia; characters both well developed and sympathetic in spite of their bad behavior: a fine, funny slice of literary life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452283251
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Chuck Kinder, a native of West Virginia, is the author of two novels, Snakehunter and Silver Ghost. He teaches fiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Read an Excerpt

Blue Brontosaurus

Ralph and Alice Ann had been mere kids and mostly innocent of any adult sense of dire consequences when they first met, fell head over heels in love, and married, using the pressures of pregnancy only as an excuse.

Ralph was eighteen, fresh out of high school, and working in a sawmill to save college money, when one summer evening, after an afternoon of driving around drinking beer, he and some pals pulled into a thunderbeast theme park on a whim. They sat there for a time in the gravel parking lot in Ralph's old rattletrap Ford polishing off their beers and lying about babes. Ralph sipped his suds and stared up at the blue face of a brontosaurus looming above the trees like some strange, low moon with unfathomable yellow eyes. 

Ralph and his pals lurched along the park's gravel paths among plants and trees strangely tropical for the Northwest and totally unknown to Ralph. Ralph picked leaves shaped like birds or bats in flight, and he sniffed them and held them up in the evening light. Ralph and his pals climbed great blue backs, swung from blue necks, took leaks on legs like blue tree trunks. Playing monster movie, Ralph and his pals split up, stumbling among the narrow paths grunting like goofy Godzillas. 

Deep into the park, Ralph rounded a bend in a gravel path to discover the most beautiful blond girl he had seen in his life. She stood in a small clearing, hosing down a dinosaur, the dusk a haze of light about her as she sprayed prismatic mists of water over the beast's blue back. She wore red short-shorts and a white halter top, and the ends of her long blond hair were darkened with water. Her tanned shoulders and long legs were wet and shining. The leaves of the trees and bushes about the clearing dripped, and water dripped from beneath the blue dinosaur, and the air smelled as rich as any rain in Ralph's memory. Ralph could hear the soft hiss of the hose and from somewhere in the tropical trees around him muffled laughter, as though from another life. Small, bright rainbows glistened over the blue beast, and through the glowing bell of mist and light the girl's long, lovely, tan face floated before Ralph, and the air captured in his chest was like an ancient caged breath. Ralph could imagine this beast the girl watered moving off in the next moments under the dripping trees to disappear. 


When Alice Ann was ten her mother died after a stroke, and Alice Ann hated her for doing it, for leaving her like that, leaving Alice Ann and her half sister, Erin, to live with Alice Ann's crummy stepdaddy in his hot, cramped trailer at the edge of her stepdaddy's dinosaur park. 

Alice Ann would grow more and more to look like her mother, tall and slender, with small, delicate breasts, boyish hips, that cascade of blond hair, even the voice, deep without resonance, a voice screaming would destroy for hours. 

One afternoon soon after the memorial service, Alice Ann's crummy stepdaddy picked Alice Ann and Erin up after school. Lookit in the backseat, he told them. Your momma's riding in the backseat, he said, and snickered. Alice Ann looked in the backseat, where she saw a silvery canister with her mother's name and dates of birth and death etched on its shiny side. 

Alice Ann thought Ralph looked like a young Abraham Lincoln. Ralph was the smartest boy she had ever met. Ralph wrote poems and he had big plans in which that sawmill played no part. Ralph had dark brown eyes that widened and flashed when he talked about a future to be fished like shining, deep water. The first time Ralph kissed her, Alice Ann thought about how fateful it felt, the way their bodies, both tall and lean, seemed to fit like pieces of a puzzle, bone against soft place, convex against concave, the perfection of dark hairs on the back of Ralph's huge, gentle hands as they caressed Alice Ann's small blond breasts. Alice Ann's stepdaddy hated the sight of Ralph. 

Late one summer night, a month after they met, Alice Ann and Ralph made love for the first time in the darkness beneath the blue brontosaurus. When Ralph opened his eyes finally, he said, Holy moly, I'm in love. Alice Ann did not move. A faint breath in her throat told Ralph that she knew what he meant. Ralph had been a virgin. When Alice Ann skipped her period, Ralph bought her a tiny diamond ring. Years later, when Alice Ann finally broke down and told Ralph who had done it to her before him, Ralph told Alice Ann it no longer really ate his heart out that she hadn't been a virgin, too. Besides, her rotten, lowlife stepdaddy was by that time dead as a doornail. 


When they were first married, Ralph and Alice Ann did not have the proverbial pot to pee in, so they could not set sail like some lucky honeymooners to exotic spots to launch their life together. Forget any thoughts of Hawaii, Niagara Falls, any Caribbean cruise under a yellow, tropical moon and countless stars to romantic ports of call, forget Disneyland. No, Ralph and Alice Ann had to launch their life together at the Dixie Court Cabins and Trailer Park at the southern edge of town. Their cabin had a tiny black-and-white TV set which worked well enough, though, and there was a tiny swimming pool out front, and down the road there was a discount liquor store with an adjoining lounge, and they had enough money for two nights alone before they would move into the small back bedroom of Ralph's mom's trailer. 

On their second and last evening there, Ralph had splurged on a bottle of high-class Scotch, and as he walked back to the cabins from the liquor store, he had felt enormously happy. He was looking forward to another long night of abandoned love-making. Abandoned, a word he liked the sound and taste of and said over and over to himself, rolling it over his tongue like a cherry-flavored LifeSaver; abandoned, the only word to describe what it had been like, throwing caution to the wind, and good manners, making all the noise they wanted, making juicy sounds during sex that were, well, so abandoned they were downright animal. Alice Ann, Ralph had gasped at one point while they were taking a breather, this business sure is, you know, abandoned. Alice Ann, Ralph had said, let's always be abandoned. 

As the Dixie Court came into view, Ralph saw that Alice Ann was standing beside the little pool in front. She was wearing her new red bikini and she was wrapping her wet hair into a white towel. The early-evening light seemed to shine off her beautiful brown skin, and Ralph felt a flutter in his stomach. There she was, he thought with pride and wonder and lust, his new wife, his bride, the new Mrs. Crawford. Alice Ann was motionless except for her lifted slender arms and her hands folding her hair into that towel. It seemed to Ralph that even from this distance he could catch the scent of her flesh. She was standing slightly on tiptoe, so that the sleek muscles of her long, tanned legs were flexed and lovely-looking. Ralph felt his weenie wiggle. 

Alice Ann seemed to be staring at something in the distance, something in the line of pine trees at the darkening edge of the woods maybe. Ralph looked past her, in the direction of her intent gaze, but he couldn't see a thing of interest. When he looked back at her, he noticed for the first time that the two men who were staying in the cabin next to theirs were sitting out front in metal lawn chairs. These men were on a fishing trip, and Ralph and Alice Ann had spoken with them briefly the night before and then again this morning, when they had run into each other at breakfast in the little diner down the road. Ralph had given them a tip about a spot he knew on a nearby creek good for brown trout, and then he and Alice Ann had chowed down on a breakfast of a half-dozen pancakes and three over-easy eggs with extra bacon each, before they had raced back to their cabin to make lots more abandoned love, their fingers and mouths still sweet and sticky with maple syrup. 

Both the men were bareback, and they were sitting there in the metal lawn chairs sipping from cans of beer and staring at Alice Ann, and Ralph wondered suddenly if Alice Ann knew this. Although Alice Ann was but a few feet from Ralph, he had the weird feeling that he was observing an image of Alice Ann that had been in some way magnified from far away, as though he were watching her from the wrong end of a telescope. As though it was not the real Alice Ann standing there but some sort of aura of her. The more intently Ralph stared, the more rarefied with clarity and sharpness her features became, yet always with that sense of magnified distance. Who is she? Ralph wondered. Who is she? 

Ralph had stood there, frozen to the spot, as he wondered if Alice Ann was posing for those perfect strangers, and the intense, peculiar desire he felt for her gripped his groin and made him both giddy and sick to his stomach. It was as though some beautiful but terrifying image of great portent were being projected before his eyes, the sort of image a story might turn upon. 

Copyright © 2001 ChuckKinder

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