Roger Fishbite

Roger Fishbite

by Emily Prager
     
 
In witty, sporadically wise, candid confessions, a thirteen-year-old girl reveals how she was seduced by her mother's husband and the events that led to her present jail sentence.

Overview

In witty, sporadically wise, candid confessions, a thirteen-year-old girl reveals how she was seduced by her mother's husband and the events that led to her present jail sentence.

Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Judd

Everyone knows that a song cover flops when it's too faithful to the original; imitation becomes interesting only when it ventures into new terrain. By that yardstick (and plenty of others), Roger Fishbite is a terrific accomplishment. Emily Prager has written what she describes as a "literary parody" of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita from the nymphet's perspective, transforming the famous '50s schoolgirl into a '90s teenager, a postmodern kid who paraphrases Ricki Lake and Henry Fielding.

What prevents the novel from devolving into an inside joke is the enthralling voice of Lucky Linderhof, who, at nearly 15, tells her tale with the world-weariness befitting an elder statesman of child abuse. Right off, she pegs her mother's boarder-boyfriend as an oily weirdo, dubbing him "Fishbite" for his cold, unblinking stare. Fishbite, she says, "was not the first grown-up who liked me. They always did." No innocent, Lucky gives as good as she gets, competing for Fishbite's attentions with her mother, a raging Sinophile who collects opium pipes and bound-feet shoes -- the ultimate in oppression chic. Lucky complains that her mom kowtows to Fishbite: "I think he wants a stronger, more feminist type like me but I'll have to watch him. Men can be perverse." The perversity Lucky dreads most, of course, is indifference.

A onetime comedy writer and columnist for the National Lampoon and Penthouse, Prager has hit upon inspired material, a story that's both expansive enough and zany enough for her offbeat talents. Roger Fishbite -- a sly mixture of social expose, riffs on TV talk shows, feminist revision of male-fantasy literature and teenage buddy tale -- is the most engaging work she's come out with since her first story collection, A Visit From the Footbinder, was published in 1982. Her sendup of the tony private schools Lucky attends is unparalleled. Each night after dinner at the Chutney School, an anorexia-and-bulimia specialist gives an inspirational lecture to keep the girls from vomiting. Lucky makes it a policy to befriend the war criminals' children, reasoning that these kids are so darling because their "fathers take all their meanness out on the citizenry." At times, Prager gets carried away with her own silliness. In the last 50 pages, Lucky forms a political action group called World's Hapless Infants, Notice Everyone! (WHINE!) to protest the child sex trade in Thailand. As a set piece it's certainly entertaining, but it digresses too far from the Fishbite plot and the book loses momentum.

In the end, Prager's novel is a negative of Nabokov's, dark where his is light and satiric where his is serious. If Lolita explores a middle-aged man's twisted but heartfelt passion for a young girl, Roger Fishbite works as black comedy, portraying an indifferent society that destroys its own children. Never is Lucky more affecting than when she lets down her guard and acts like the kid she is. Of her sordid adventures with Fishbite, she writes: "I had not yet reached the age hen doing wrong excited me. I'd rather have gone back to school and gotten A's. I was beginning to do well at geometry and, frankly, I missed it." -- Salon

Barcelona Review
...reader beware. Roger Fishbite, I'm sorry to say, is pure tedium, with a Lolita-like character whose principal talent would seem to be to put the reader to sleep - and I mean passed out face down in the pages from sheer boredom....This could be an entertaining spoof if played for laughs, but the laughs aren't there and the plot falls painfully flat on its pages between the lack of humor and the predictability of the narrative.
The Observer
Prager's novel is both a polemic and a lament, and, like its narrator, it is funny, spirited and deeply disturbing.
The Times (London)
It takes a very good writer to translate such creepy stuff into richly comic story-telling.
New York Times Book Review
...[T]he novel rises above its twee tone with its message: Abuse of children...must be stopped.
NY Times Book Review
...[T]he novel rises above its twee tone with its message: Abuse of children...must be stopped.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679410539
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/16/1999
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
187
Product dimensions:
5.87(w) x 8.58(h) x 0.84(d)

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