The Mortician's Apprentice

Overview

The year is 1953, that peculiar pocket of time between Eisenhower's inauguration and the advent of tail fins and rock and roll. The place is southern California, sunny and swollen with Cold War-driven prosperity. The prescribed cultural attitude is a grimly clenched optimism. "Everybody in the land was under one mandate: Be happy!" observes the irresistible hero of The Mortician's Apprentice, eighteen-year-old and appealingly clueless Ozzie Santee. Just about to graduate from high school, Ozzie understands his ...
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1994-08 Hardcover First Edition New in Like New jacket Brand condition first printing, first edition hardcover book, no marks, no wear. MendoPower Employment Services will ... immediately and carefully pack this book in high-quality bubble lined, envelopes. Then we send you a confirmation e-mail. We appreciate your business and welcome any questions. Read more Show Less

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Overview

The year is 1953, that peculiar pocket of time between Eisenhower's inauguration and the advent of tail fins and rock and roll. The place is southern California, sunny and swollen with Cold War-driven prosperity. The prescribed cultural attitude is a grimly clenched optimism. "Everybody in the land was under one mandate: Be happy!" observes the irresistible hero of The Mortician's Apprentice, eighteen-year-old and appealingly clueless Ozzie Santee. Just about to graduate from high school, Ozzie understands his marching orders perfectly, and they scare him to death. The fact that he may not have a future doesn't diminish his energetic, if unfocused, attempts to escape it. The future presents itself most insistently, though, in the person of Colleen Vogel, the beautiful daughter of San Diego's most successful undertaker. The archetypal tender trap, Colleen represents everything Ozzie knows he should want: energetic sex, well-padded domesticity, assembly-line reproduction, and especially lifetime prosperity. There's a place reserved for Ozzie Santee at the Vogel-Darling Funeral Home as a mortician's apprentice, putting him in a working relationship with death. As Ozzie careens between flights into the ecstasy of hard bop jazz, which "burned gaping holes all the way through the dismal shit that passed itself off as the world" and drunken adventures with his buddies in Tijuana, followed by fitful attempts to get with the program, a whole era is magically invoked. Rick DeMarinis refracts through his young hero's post-adolescent angst all the patriotic fever, nuclear anxiety, political paranoia, and raw capitalist cupidity that fueled the psychology of the fifties. If you crossed James Thurber's hilariously affectionate and deadpan feel for Americana with the black comedy of Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One, you might come up with the unique charm and poignance of The Mortician's Apprentice. But only if you were very, very lucky.

The author of the acclaimed novel The Year of the Zinc Penny offers the story of Ozzie Santee, an appealingly clueless 1950s teenager. When Ozzie graduates from high school, his future becomes embodied in the person of the undertaker's luscious daughter. Thus begins Ozzie's darkly hilarious adventures as The Mortician's Apprentice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
DeMarinis's intelligent, engaging, often funny novel--a sort of West Coast, blue-collar Catcher in the Rye --takes satiric aim at '50s Americana while chronicling the maturation of Ozzie Santee. Raised by a casually promiscuous mother and a succession of stepfathers, high-school rebel Ozzie is graduating, unsure of what he wants to do with his life but cynical and pessimistic about his prospects. Even when he is pursued by Colleen Vogel, daughter of San Diego's preeminent mortician, he proves reluctant to set a wedding date and to embrace his fate as her father's apprentice. The Korean War is lurching to a conclusion, but its effects are everywhere: Ozzie's best friend, Art, marries and has a child to avoid the draft; San Diego's economy is dominated by defense dollars; and Art's father is in danger of being deported for suspected subversive activities. DeMarinis accords his characters grace and dignity. Even Colleen, a scheming temptress determined to become a Donna Reed-ish wife, is portrayed with understanding. Yet DeMarinis ( The Year of the Zinc Penny ) is not at the top of his form here. He introduces an alter ego for Ozzie who seems gratuitous to the story; there are too many passages where the momentum dips; and the ending is rushed and anticlimactic. But his mastery of character nuances, his precise and pungent language and the novel's iron-clad sense of time and place make up for a handful of sins. First serial to GQ; author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
In this appealing coming-of-age novel, Ozzie Santee is an 18-year-old high school senior in 1953 San Diego whose life revolves around thoughts of sex and his beloved jazz. With the Cold War raging, his fellow graduating seniors are planning on college or marriage in order to avoid the draft. Ozzie, who thinks he would be happy living in a beach shack with his jazz records, unexpectedly falls in lust with Colleen Vogel, well-to-do daughter of a funeral home director. Colleen begins to guide him toward marriage, family, and an assured position in the funeral business, with Ozzie fighting every step of the way. His rebellion takes the form of trips to Mexico for alcoholic binges and prostitutes, followed by swims in the ocean to clear his head. DeMarinis (The Voice of America, LJ 4/15/91), who has created a wonderful character in Ozzie, has succeeded in capturing a young man's feelings of confusion in the Cold War era. Recommended for most collections.-Patricia Ross, Westerville P.L., Ohio
Alice Joyce
Raging hormones aside, Ozzie Santee is not really sure whether he wants to marry the mortician's daughter. The setting is Southern California, and even while the cold war is brewing up a storm, Ozzie's love of bebop manages to muffle the simple fact of his lifethat he doesn't have a clue as to the next step once he graduates from high school. DeMarinis creates a classic protagonist in his trenchant portrayal of Ozzie, son of the much-married Mitzi, who has wandered the country to settle on a home in Paradise (aka San Diego). This taut and memorable tour de force, concocted with equal parts humor and pathos disguised as outrageous behavior, follows Ozzie as he careens along a crash course doing everything possible to prolong his adolescence.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393036626
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.93 (w) x 8.53 (h) x 1.18 (d)

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