Whispering Bodies: A Roy Belkin Disaster

Whispering Bodies: A Roy Belkin Disaster

5.0 1
by Jesse Michaels
     
 

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Roy Belkin, a reclusive man, Internet troll and neurotic ritualist stars In Whispering Bodies, the debut novel from Jesse Michaels. Belkin must begin each day with the task he calls The Service: visiting Christian chat-rooms to reply to users innocent questions with mocking answers. “Why do they call the taking of the communion ‘Mass?’”

Overview


Roy Belkin, a reclusive man, Internet troll and neurotic ritualist stars In Whispering Bodies, the debut novel from Jesse Michaels. Belkin must begin each day with the task he calls The Service: visiting Christian chat-rooms to reply to users innocent questions with mocking answers. “Why do they call the taking of the communion ‘Mass?’”? Belkin124 responds: “They call it the Mass because after Jesus was crucified, a mass of people rushed forward to the cross and ate him. Now they eat the wafer to remember it.” At forty-seven, balding, and mildly agoraphobic, Belkin is a man without direction. He rarely leaves his apartment (he refers to the outside world as The Pounding), and when he must leave, he meticulously recounts the day in his Thunder Book; a journal where he lists all that repulsed him that day.

But everything changes the day Belkin returns to his apartment to find the building ablaze along with the suspected murder of the apartment building’s maintenance man. As police question him, Belkin meets the mysterious Pernice Balfour, the alluring, religiously obsessed neighbor accused of the crime. Soon, Belkin has no choice but to come out of his shell (and his apartment) to try to clear her name. But the more Belkin investigates, the muddier things become. Wandering through San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin district, Belkin begins to unravel the truth behind the murder, and encounters a bizarre series of characters and situations: "pansexual" crime-scene photographer, an idiot detective, and an all-knowing government operative.

Whispering Bodies is comical offbeat exploration of the wisdom found in madness and the madness found in conventional life, all brought together in a classic tale of who-done-it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Michaels, best known as the front man of Operation Ivy, trades character for caricature and satire for slapstick in this disappointing debut novel. Roy Belkin is "47 years old. Bald, skinny and pockmarked" and "a man who was likely to be overlooked in most situations" as he hides away in his apartment, posting spurious comments to "Helping Hands," a spirituality message board. After a short shopping trip, he arrives at his apartment to find fire trucks outside, learns a body has been found, and from there is dragged along a wacky chain of events to clear the name of Pernice Balfour, whom he falls for the moment he sees her. The novel is riddled with flat notes, especially when Michaels attempts observational humor or tries to express Roy's love for Pernice though internal monologue. The descriptive prose is often flat and vague, never quite capturing Roy's San Francisco surroundings or rendering a believable world for the zany characters to inhabit. This is a forced and juvenile attempt at satire that falls flat. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

"Michaels, best known as the front man for the band Operation Ivy, creates a unique narrative voice."—Kirkus

"Jesse Michaels' debut novel is a unique and side-splitting performance, punctuated by a whip smart narrative and magnetic prose. A dizzying combination of Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman and Kurt Vonnegut, if he were a hostile agoraphobic, Whispering Bodies is an unreasonably funny work. It's Mitch Hedberg, it's Franz Kafka, it's none of the above. A post-everything romp of delicious absurdity." —Alex Green, Caught in the Carousel

"Jesse Michaels' Whispering Bodies is the first book I couldn't put down in a long time. In Roy Belkin. Michaels' has given us one of the most memorable protagonists in recent fiction—shades of a 21st Century Ignatius J. Reilly—but ultimately wholly original as he stumbles his misanthropic yet, at times, oddly hopeful way through the world. A great book." - Rob Roberge, author of The Cost of Living

"How this guy, this guy who comes out of nowhere, this 'Michaels,' could turn something out like this — I'm speechless. Absolutely shitting right now. It's like there is finally a book." —Albert Deasely, Enchantment

"A perverse, inventive, and unremittingly funny debut novel that ingeniously marries John Kennedy Toole to Raymond Chandler." —Patrick deWitt, Ablutions and The Sisters Brothers

Kirkus Reviews
You have to be crazy to get involved in a murder. How crazy? Roy Belkin is just this side of certifiable. He's retreated into a world of OCD rituals so time-consuming that he rarely interacts with other people. Instead, he's addicted to the Helping Hands website, where he leaves outrageous, offensive comments about queries posted by its deeply religious users. When Roy does venture out, it's to visit his father, a demented cryptologist sequestered by the Feds, who pay Roy a monthly stipend as the dependent of an "employee." His hyperorganized life is ended by a fire in his San Francisco apartment building that reveals a charred corpse complete with a bullet hole. When his luscious neighbor Pernice Balfour asks him what happened, Roy irrationally tells her that he's a detective. Pernice, whose racy pictures have been found along with the body of Frank Relpher, and whose closet contains accelerant and a gun, is jailed on suspicion of murder. Roy's vow to help her leads him to a man as knowledgeable as his father about Cave-Urdu dialogue, a priest who knew Pernice from her charity work and a crime scene photographer who offers clues in exchange for naked shots of Roy. Detective Morpello makes little headway on the case; worse, he mistakes Roy for a perp, or so he says, and shoots at him. Still, Roy perseveres, and after more tips from the creepy crime photographer, Bible quotations from Pernice, knowing silences from the priest and a prescient dream, he realizes how the arson was started and the bullet fired. Michaels, best known as the front man for the band Operation Ivy, creates a unique narrative voice, but it takes a lot of magical thinking to make this surreal plot work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593765309
Publisher:
Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date:
09/10/2013
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author


Jesse Michaels is a songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and artist from Berkeley, California. Most notably he fronted the band Operation Ivy.

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Whispering Bodies: A Roy Belkin Disaster 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Chando More than 1 year ago
Whispering Bodies is a mystery, but if you're not a mystery reader, don't let that stop you from reading this novel: it's not your typical whodunit. Michaels has written a hilarious novel about loss, the damages we all sustain, love, spirituality (with its distortions and discontents), and general human craziness, in an often satirical and sometimes tender voice. Some of the scenes and characters are absurd, but you'll recognize them. The language of the novel is rich and musical with new names for things and made-up sounds. I wasn't surprised to learn that Michaels is also a musician and an artist. And if you are a mystery reader, you'll have fun with the plot and the delicious parody of the genre. Highly recommended.