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Let Nothing You Dismay
     

Let Nothing You Dismay

3.0 2
by Mark O'Donnell
 

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In his brilliant new novel, the first since the widely enjoyed Getting Over Homer, Mark
O'Donnell takes us on a wild and funny tour through the Christmas season's ultimate challenge: the day of too many parties.

It's Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve in Manhattan--five days from the holiday Ground Zero--but Tad Leary, the most confused man on earth,

Overview

In his brilliant new novel, the first since the widely enjoyed Getting Over Homer, Mark
O'Donnell takes us on a wild and funny tour through the Christmas season's ultimate challenge: the day of too many parties.

It's Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve in Manhattan--five days from the holiday Ground Zero--but Tad Leary, the most confused man on earth, doesn't know whether to celebrate or go crazy. He's just been fired, he's about to be evicted from his sublet, he's getting nowhere on his overdue folklore thesis, "Social Hierarchies of Imaginary Places," and on top of everything else--or rather underneath everything else--at age thirty-four (older than Christ), he's five-foot-one and still baby-faced, so he's treated like a child wherever he goes. Nonetheless, he's been invited to seven (a magic number one of his rivals is writing a thesis about) different Christmas parties that day, and he decides to explore every one of them for possible work, apartments, love, and just plain distraction.

Tad's a walking punch bowl of joy and fear, goodwill and alienation, running a constant mental argument with himself throughout his long marathon. By midnight, he will have visited all parts of his past--from brunch with his rumpled Boston Irish parents and arguably more successful brothers, to dinner with his beautiful Swedish ex-girlfriend, to a fancy, colossal uptown bash where, by now dangerously looped, he bumps into an ex-boyfriend (more confusion!) looking as "glorious and golden as a roast turkey."

A farcical, over-the-top feast of twisted one-liners and outrageous imagery, Let Nothing You Dismay depicts Tad's--and everyone's--struggle for survival, with a bracing combination of Darwinian theory and hallucinatory fairy-tale wonder. It's a Chekhov story told with P. G. Wodehouse flippancy, or a tale of Celtic mysticism as S. J. Perelman might have rendered it. Above all, the bright spots in this darkest night of the soul prove that comical epiphany isn't just for Christmas anymore.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Daniel Reitz
If any writer could be said to be the self-appointed court jester of gay literature, it would be Mark O'Donnell. His novels and plays are an homage in spirit to all the cartoon watchers of his generation (and mine). The title of one of his plays -- "That's All, Folks!" -- says it all: O'Donnell will stop at nothing to win you over with his Bugs Bunny-style smart alecky world view, and his good cheer is infectious. His work is peppered with characters breaking into dopey jingles or reciting cheesy but charming verse. They are boy-men who are both wise-ass and wise, who, behind a sardonic false front, are open for business in the traffic of pain, passion and inner peace.

Having spoiled us with the giddy brilliance of his last novel, Getting Over Homer, Let Nothing You Dismay is a disappointment despite its seemingly foolproof O'Donnellian premise: It's Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve, or five days before Christmas, and Tad Leary, a 34-year-old newly unemployed and evicted Manhattanite, tries to shake off the gloom of his distinctly unseasonal circumstances by spending one day doing nothing but party-hopping. Tad is O'Donnell's queer Ulysses, attempting to find a purpose to his meandering existence, exemplified by his toil (or lack thereof) over the vaguest of doctoral theses, "Social Hierarchies of Imaginary Places."

The book begins with a blow-by-blow description of Tad beginning his directionless day. Staring into the toilet at the morning's bowel movement -- "a tattered yellow flotilla, feather-edged and legion" -- Tad is reminded of the "teeming circles of angels surrounding the Light he'd admired in Gustave Dore's drawings of Dante's Paradiso.The Milky Way galaxy itself, he mused, also resembles a toilet in midflush. Was seeing angels in the toilet or toilets in the cosmos -- firmament as excrement -- a sign of madness, sadness, or gladness? As long as you find things interesting, he tried to reassure himself, you will survive."

The problem with Tad (let's begin with the name) is that he seeks, in such excrement-gazing, the answers to more nagging questions of self-preservation. He's also almost infuriatingly acquiescent in his own disparagement. Left and right, hither and yon, Tad is insulted, dismissed, slandered, ignored and condescended to -- by family, friends, ex-employers and the most transparently desperate of academic rivals. Because of his diminutive size, Tad's even mistaken on several occasions for a child, and the wan stoicism with which he accepts his belittlement becomes increasingly irritating. Not that there aren't a few choice moments: a downtown performance artist/uptown caterer dressed as the Virgin Mary, serving crab cakes and posing for pictures with oohing models, for instance. But at the center is dreary, passive unsatisfying Tad.

The novel's "be grateful for the gift of life" wrap-up may be the perfect Yuletide sentiment, but since it's coming from O'Donnell, I would have liked a little more spice in this Christmas confection. -- Salon

Ginia Bellafante
A humorist and playwright, O'Donnell has mastered the art of conveying the bittersweet. . . Ask yourself how many contemporary comic novels have dealt with the issue of class, and you will come up with a short list. Moreover, ask yourself how many manage to skewer Swedish cinema, performance art, silly doctoral theses, and the 'Poverty Barn' along the way, and you'll begin to see why this one is such a treat. -- Time Magazine
James Polk
What can Tad expect. . .from this pilgrimage> Maybe just a bit of peach in the tiny corner of the world he calls his own.
The New York Times Book Review
New Yorker
Uproarious. . . One of the funniest writers around.
Michael Musto
A wise, hilarious stocking stuffer, the kind to read five days before Christmas every year. -- Village Voice
Dan Cryer
A delight. . . . Academic pretense, bohemian fakery. . . sibling rivalry, the search for love and the comforts of friendship. Let Nothing You Dismay ties them all together in a well-told story. . . By turns zany and meditative, satirical and mellow. -- Newsday
Library Journal
On December 20, 34-year-old Tad Leary, just fired from his teaching job and about to be evicted from his apartment, embarks on a wild, daylong round of Christmas parties. Like Scrooge, he visits his past, present, and future.
Kirkus Reviews
It's December 20th, and poor gay Tad's love life is in a shambles. He's lost his teaching job at the tony Manhattan elementary school where he's staff storyteller, is about to be evicted from his apartment, and—-my God!—-he's 34, older than Christ! Humorist O'Donnell's fiction (Getting Over Homer) is usually well-received for its loopy, silly narrative verve. But at times, his style overblows every little waterfly that skims across his mind ("Tad needed to unwrap a fresh bar of soap in order to shower, and he squirmed at its sharp edges, like rubbing a wooden box against himself, as he lathered up under the spigot's impersonal torrent"). Here, a long round of Christmas parties and get-togethers sends Tad, Scrooge-like, through a dense life-review, including discussions about death (his friend Yoni says she'd like to die the traditional way, the "during orgasm" route). Along the way, there's a clutch of quite moving moments, as the odyssey culminates with most of his losses restored: Friends offer him sleeping space, and his school may take him back. Life is a lovely empty glass to be refilled—-but not before a final leaning toward suicide in frigid Central Park. Will this be the first annual gay literary Christmas carol? Only Knopf can know for sure.

From the Publisher
"A delight...Academic pretense, bohemian fakery...sibling rivalry, the search for love and the comforts of friendship. Let Nothing You Dismay ties them all together in a well-told story...By turns zany and meditative, satirical and mellow"        
—Dan Cryer, Newsday

"Uproarious...One of the funniest writers around"        
The New Yorker

"A wise, hilarious stocking stuffer, the kind to read five days before Christmas every year."
—Michael Musto, The Village Voice

"Wryly comic, sweetly aphoristic"
Elle

"Thoroughly, hilarious"
—Susannah Meadows, GQ

"The guy practically takes language out to the park to play with it."
—Mark Bazer, Boston Phoenix

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307801630
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/20/2011
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Mark O'Donnell lives New York City.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Let Nothing You Dismay 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE STORY LINE IS A RIOT AND SO IS THE HUMOR.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This 'uproariously' funny book bored me to tears!! I kept reading it thinking maybe it would get better or it was just a slow starter. I finally gave up two thirds of the way through and decided I couldn't handle another page!!!