From the Publisher
“An entertaining coming-of-age story set in one of America’s legendary weird suburbs . . . Hollander is an inventive writer who manages simultaneously to romanticize and to parody his own experience.”
–The Washington Post
“The landscape of Long Island is a critical presence in the book, and Hollander portrays it with as much vitality and detail as the human characters. . . . One of the best aspects of L.I.E. is that is can be read on several different levels. Sufficiently lighthearted and amusing for casual readers, it contains enough emotional complexity and even tragedy to suit those who long for deeper reading. Those who seek challenge and profundity will find plenty of food for thought in Harlan’s existential dilemma. . . . This unconventional novel [is] a rewarding and entertaining experience.”
–The Wellesley News
“Hollander displays a keen eye for the ordinary, capturing teenage discontent and suburban malaise without pretense.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dissolution, love and sexual frustration are the driving themes of this debut novel, set on blue-collar Long Island, or "Wrong Island," as its denizens here refer to it. Spanning the last two years of the '80s amid several dead-end towns in Suffolk County, the novel disjointedly follows the painful maturation of Harlan Kessler, a long-haired, guitar-picking 18-year-old who's searching for his life's direction but would settle for losing his virginity. A hilarious opening sequence sets the stage for his fragmented, slapstick journey: the moment before Harlan rids himself of his innocence, his entire family walks in on the teen couple en flagrante. The plot expands to include Harlan's scary brothers and adulterous parents, his loser friends and their dysfunctional families. Harlan's pal, drummer Todd Slatsky, has wild parties at which he plays home movies featuring his father beating up his mother. Harlan's eventual romantic interest, Sarah, is terrified of her mother's new husband, a sleazy coke dealer who supplies the drugs that fuel the mental breakdown of Harlan's friend Beedy. Harlan is the center of this series of increasingly odd episodes, which progress from the depressingly plausible sexual bunglings to scenes of death, destruction and depravity. In an utterly bizarre one-act play set in the middle of the book, the fragmentation of Harlan's brain mirrors the disintegration of his family. The story of Harlan's sad life is rife with the wry asides, ironic italics and narrative tricks much better left to the skills of Dave Eggers, and the novel's conclusion is deeply, unsatisfyingly ambiguous. Hollander's debut is set against a backdrop so bleak that it undermines his otherwise formidable talent for tragic irony and cinematic vision. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
A male coming-of-age novel isn't all that rare, but we don't often find one that presents its main character's growing maturity with such insight and sensitivity. At the onset, protagonist Harlan Kessler is in high school on Long Island in the 1980s (the eponymous L.I.E. stands for Long Island Expressway), where his concerns are limited to sports and losing his virginity. In the early chapters, Hollander makes liberal use of italics to demonstrate youthful exuberance, but his narrative voice quickly sobers as Harlan stumbles his way into adulthood. Harlan's middle-class Long Island is an American dream gone wrong--an endless sprawl of bedroom communities populated with disconnected people. Harlan sees his friends scatter or get caught up in drugs, suicide, or dead-end jobs. Meanwhile, he pins his hopes on a rock guitarist career, a choice destined to keep him stuck in his job as an IRS clerk. Hollander experiments with some stylistic tricks and in the end waxes surrealistic, but the novel's true strength is its realistic depiction of hollow, suburban life. Highly recommended for first-novel collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/00.]--Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Formal innovations are the most interesting features of this rangy first novel, which assembles ten interrelated stories and a brief coda to trace the uneasy maturing of a Long Island teenager.
Read an Excerpt
"And then," Harlan continues, "they put me in the four-by-eight, right after I'd run the quarter!"
"The four-by-eight?" his father asks.
"Yeah. Four guys, we each run a half-mile. It's a relay."
"Whenever something starts 'four-by,' that means it's a relay."
They're sitting in the den; the television bathes them in a hypnotizing luminescence. His father is eating what would be Harlan's equivalent of breakfast. It's five p.m., but Dad works the night shift. He's only been up an hour.
"So then what happened?"
"Well, I've really been running well lately," Harlan says.
"So they wanted me to anchor."
"Anchor?" His father takes a bite of a scrambled-egg sandwich. He looks at Harlan briefly, then back at sitcoms.
"Yeah," Harlan says. "That means to go last. The best guy goes last."
"And they wanted you to go last?" With affected pride.
"Yeah. But you know, I was still tired from the other race."
"Yeah, the quarter."
A breeze blows through the patio door. Beyond the chain-link fence that marks their territory, cars hurtle. Station Road is a place where kids drive fast. Harlan will start driving next year, and he imagines he'll follow local custom.
His father eats quickly, ravenously. He's listening to Harlan; that is,
he wants to listen, but he keeps thinking about the time that Harlan came up to bat with two outs and runners on first and third in the bottom half of the last inning of the Little League championships. He belted a double into the gap in right-center. Was that so long ago? The team had lifted his son onto their shoulders. They'd paraded his boy around the diamond. And he'd called Harlan "Mr. Clutch." "That's what they'll call you from now on, Harlan! Mr. Clutch!" he'd screamed. He'd felt like a father, like it meant something to be a father.
He swallows up the rest of his sandwich. Harlan goes on.
". . . I wouldn't let him pass me though. Bobby Miller, the best half-miler in the state! And I held him off!"
"Wow. That's great, Son. That's terrific, Harlan. Maybe you'll be a track star."
"Well, I don't know about that." He shrugs.
His father carries his plate and coffee cup into the kitchen. The water runs. Harlan doesn't know why he lied, but he knows that he had to. He knows it might not even be a lie. In his head it's very clear, it happened just like he said, he ran anchor, he held off Bobby Miller, it might have happened that way.
That night his father will unleash the story on a co-worker. "My son's a track star, you know. Best relay runner in the state, the whole damn state!"
And years later Harlan will dust it off, in a bar, for a woman who isn't going home with him. "Sure, we've all got a few things that stick with us. Like my sub-two half-mile. I was a real speed demon back then,
Why's that so hard to believe?"