Little Caesar

Overview


From internationally best-selling author Tommy Wieringa, comes a rich and engrossing novel about a man on an odyssey in search of answers about his dysfunctional artistic family and the legacy they left behind.

When Ludwig Unger returned to his hometown after a decade, he arrived with a plastic bag filled with his mother’s ashes and little else. He was there to make amends with his lonely past, to say goodbye to the familial ghosts that still haunted him. Raised in a cliff-top ...

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Little Caesar

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Overview


From internationally best-selling author Tommy Wieringa, comes a rich and engrossing novel about a man on an odyssey in search of answers about his dysfunctional artistic family and the legacy they left behind.

When Ludwig Unger returned to his hometown after a decade, he arrived with a plastic bag filled with his mother’s ashes and little else. He was there to make amends with his lonely past, to say goodbye to the familial ghosts that still haunted him. Raised in a cliff-top cottage on the coast of England, Ludwig’s mother tried to create a normal life for her son after her husband one day left them to pursue his art. A mama’s boy, Ludwig grew up in her shadow, developing an obsession with her and her sensual allure. But when he discovered the secret of her past as the world-famous porn star “Eve LaSage” and her plans for a comeback, Ludwig’s world spun out of control. He soon found himself homeless, shouldering the shame of his mother’s career, and embarking on a journey that took him around the world.

Little Caesar is a story of beauty and decay, of filial loyalty and parental betrayal, and of the importance of self-sacrifice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Wieringa’s second English-language novel (after Joe Speedboat) begins, down-and-out musician Ludwig Unger returns to coastal Kings Ness, England, where the houses are in constant danger of tumbling into the sea and the rabbits are all inexplicably diseased, making it immediately clear that we’re in surreal territory despite the lucidity of the narration and prose. From his perch at a hotel lounge piano where he performs schmaltzy standards, Ludwig tells his tale: upon discovering that his mother was actually Eve LeSage, “the Grace Kelley of porn,” Ludwig, then 21, traveled to L.A. to confront her, only to witness her Las Vegas comeback after two decades out of the spotlight. Longing for less radical expressions of love from his mother, Ludwig goes with her and her production company to Vienna and Prague. Eve’s all-consuming sexuality makes a liability of Ludwig at every turn, but it’s an unforeseen problem with her attempt at a career revival that propels Ludwig to flee to Panama, where he encounters the sinister father who abandoned the family. Although perfectly charming as picaresque, the tragedy of Unger’s plight registers just as strongly as its understated oddness. There are plenty of precedents for the novel-as-game (fellow Dutch author Cees Nooteboom, for instance) but in Little Caesar, Wieringa plays for keeps. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"Beautifully lyrical storytelling under a banner of gray skies and heavy hearts; one gorgeous, epic reminder than no matter what skeletons we have in our closet, we all try our best and our hardest to do well by the ones we love—as Morrissey has sung: 'That's how people grow up.'" —Dan Kennedy, Host of The Moth Storytelling Podcast, author of ROCK ON: An Office Power Ballad

"Although perfectly charming as picaresque, the tragedy of Unger’s plight registers just as strongly as its understated oddness . . . Wieringa plays for keeps." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The poet Philip Larkin’s famous observation that your mom and dad really mess you up is aptly illustrated in this offbeat, atmospheric novel . . . [a] haunting book." —Kirkus Reviews

"A potent, emotionally moving, beautifully realized novel about a young man seeking to understand his difficult, eccentric parents. . . . Wieringa masterfully examines the complex and often agonizing work that many of us undertake to live our own healthy, independent, adult lives." —Library Journal

"Tommy Wieringa’s inventive coming-of-age novel [involves] deeply flawed characters, maddening in their poor choices, but in Wieringa’s nimble hands, they elicit our sympathy." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Tommy Wieringa's ambitious novel is a brilliant exploration of the uneasy transition from adolescence into adulthood—the restlessness, yearning for stability, irrational decisions and erotic obsessions." —The Independent (UK)

Library Journal
Dutch writer Wieringa (Joe Speedboat) is acclaimed for his coming-of-age stories, and he has produced another accomplished one here—a potent, emotionally moving, beautifully realized novel about a young man seeking to understand his difficult, eccentric parents. Ludwig, Wieringa's young protagonist, has been abandoned by his heartless father; the cruelty of this betrayal, as well as his parents' acrimonious divorce, has incapacitated him. His father is a brute, a sensationalistic conceptual artist whose most recent project, the destruction of a mountain deep in the Amazon rain forest, has provoked worldwide protest. His mother is a former adult film star. The novel builds powerfully as Ludwig works his way through youthful confusion and anger to a mature and chastened understanding of his parents. VERDICT Wieringa masterfully examines the complex and often agonizing work that many of us must undertake to live our own healthy, independent, adult lives. Enthusiastically recommended for fans of literary fiction.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Kirkus Reviews
The poet Philip Larkin's famous observation that your mom and dad really mess you up is aptly illustrated in this offbeat, atmospheric novel by Dutch author Wieringa (Joe Speedboat, 2010, etc.). Though the narrative takes awhile to reveal itself, the book is ultimately about the psychological damage inflicted on Ludwig Unger, a gifted young pianist, by his absent father and manipulative yet seductive mother, Marthe. Ludwig's relationship with Marthe is initially peaceful, if sensually charged; their bonding ritual involves her dressing him in her clothes and painting his face with makeup. Their almost-romance is breached when he learns--improbably, not until his teens--of her previous life as Eve LeSage, a world-famous star of pornographic films. Neither of them tries to understand why Ludwig is so enraged; she returns to California and resumes her career while Ludwig drifts passively through relationships with a string of women. Marthe remains in control during the book's final third, when she is diagnosed with an early, still-curable form of breast cancer and against Ludwig's wishes, refuses anything but ineffective alternative treatments. Her death is long and painful; in a metaphor perhaps too obvious, one of her last gestures is to grab Ludwig at her bedside and attempt to bite into his neck. The book leaves Ludwig with the overdue possibility of a future, after he's lost Marthe and provoked a cathartic physical confrontation with his father. Because the action in the story is largely internal, the book's pace can be frustrating--as can Ludwig himself, when he deserts a woman who's an obvious lifeline in order to sink deeper into co-dependency. This haunting book doesn't try to sort out Ludwig's internal life, it just places the reader in the middle.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802120496
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


TOMMY WIERINGA has written several books including the novel Joe Speedboat, which won the Bordewijk Prize in 2006, was long-listed for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and nominated for the AKO Literature Prize. Wieringa lives in Amsterdam and writes for the Dutch NRC Handelsblad daily newspaper.
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