You Poor Monster

You Poor Monster

4.6 8
by Michael Kun

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"Young Baltimore attorney Hamilton "Ham" Ashe is a man torn between fact and friendship. His neighbor, pal, and client, Sam Shoogey is a former war hero, college football star, professional boxer, and novelist. Or is he? What Hamilton does know is that he's inexplicably drawn to the charming and gregarious raconteur who makes his life hell - but at least worth living.…  See more details below


"Young Baltimore attorney Hamilton "Ham" Ashe is a man torn between fact and friendship. His neighbor, pal, and client, Sam Shoogey is a former war hero, college football star, professional boxer, and novelist. Or is he? What Hamilton does know is that he's inexplicably drawn to the charming and gregarious raconteur who makes his life hell - but at least worth living." "Representing Shoogey in a nasty divorce case, Ham allows himself to be sucked into his client's wild claims and adventures, much to the consternation of his wife. As more and more of Shoogey's anecdotes unravel and become either delusion or fabrication, however, Ham is faced with the question, "Is a lie a lie if you know it's untrue, or is it just a story?"" With endnotes that may belie everything the reader assumes, Michael Kun plays with the form and function of literature to weave two stories together and tell an innovative tale with a delicate balance of humor and tragedy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
A Baltimore lawyer acquires an engaging but erratic raconteur for a client in Kun's funny, mazy third novel (after My Wife and My Dead Wife). When corporate lawyer Hamilton "Ham" Ashe takes on his neighbor Sam Shoogey's divorce case (against his better judgment), it's the beginning of a bizarre friendship. Shoogey is a liar extraordinaire-he regales Ham with stories of killing seven men during an unspecified war, sleeping with 150 women, writing lots of books, being a college football star and the like-and Ham finds him fascinating, even if Ham's wife (the "old grapefruit," Shoogey calls her) disapproves. The story of their improbable friendship lies at the heart of Kun's book-just who is Shoogey? And is anything he says true?-which delicately contrasts Ashe's very real family life and Shoogey's wild fantasy existence. While comedy sits on the surface of the narrative, a poignancy that borders on tragedy lies beneath in a novel that "tells the truth and lies in the same voice." Discover New Writers pick; Borders Original Voices pick; author tour. Agent, Sandra Bond. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Think of the biggest liar you've ever known, a truly repulsive human being, and imagine what it would require to feel compassion for him. In The Locklear Letters (2003), Kun showed that he could take a truly pathetic specimen of a person-in that case, a compulsive writer of astonishingly clueless fan letters to the titular actress-and find the honest spark within him without resorting to fakery or sentimental machinations. In this more ambitious fiction, the central piece of sad-sackery is a more complex creation, and the author makes him a near-epic character. Sam Shoogey likes to regale next-door neighbor and narrator Hamilton (Ham) Ashe with stories that are as wonderfully dramatic as they are probably untrue. The book opens with a real corker that we soon learn Sam tells at every conceivable opportunity: about the time he killed a man in "the war" (unspecified) and then years later got a visit from the fellow soldier whose life he had saved, who promptly borrowed money from him. This gem of hardnosed poetry and heartache understandably enthralls Ham, a lawyer who barely supports his wife and child by working ridiculous hours. It turns out that Sam is not only a fantastic raconteur but also a mystery writer and lover of a woman who needs Ham's help with a little divorce problem he's having. Thus begins their odd friendship, which sprawls through this lengthy but breezy text and starts to unravel in strange circumstances before it has a chance to truly blossom. Kun manages to make Ham's life, with its routines and lassitude, seem just as engaging as Sam's speedy, high-octane antics; he conveys just as much feeling for moments of quiet familial grace as he does for comic extravaganzas.When Sam's house of cards begins to collapse, You Poor Monster becomes sadder and grows more resonant as a result. A refreshingly humane comedy about the lies people tell themselves-and others-just to survive.

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Product Details

MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.18(h) x 1.20(d)

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Chapter Two: This Will All End Badly

This will all end badly.

Shoogey assured me of that the night he appeared at our door looking like a smashed vase that had been hastily pieced back together.

It happened soon after Angie and I bought a house in Baltimore. It was the city where we were both born and reared, where I first met Angie, where I met her again years later (thank God), where we were married (white church, white steeple), where our daughters (first Katie, then Claire) were born and reared.

Baltimore was built on the harbor, and the damp ocean air has left much of the city the pearly color of flounder -- the buildings, the streets, even the sky at noon. It is a color that suits an industrial city: factories and warehouses and freighters tied up to the docks on the harbor, where the water is still too brown to be green. But the city is not all gray. No, there are pockets of green land here and there, parks and ball fields, and neighborhoods so lovely that you would swear you were lost in some New England hamlet. Flowers. Trees. The smell of things growing. The smell of things being cut.

The house Angie and I bought was located in a comfortable, tree-lined section of the city known as Mount Washington. The trees were certainly what you noticed first about the neighborhood, lovely, thick-trunked oaks. In the summer, they held a plush, fragrant umbrella over the neighborhood; in the winter, their bare brown limbs reached toward the sky like the beseeching arms of a gospel choir. The streets in the neighborhood were quiet and infrequently trafficked, perfect for children's play, and though there were several apartment complexes in the area, all with fancy names meant to suggest some rich heritage -- "The George Washington Estates," "The Gables" and other, similar nonsense -- most of the homes were one-story affairs like ours, with front porches and short, asphalt driveways and, of course, the trees. They were homes that attracted all types: young families, like ours, who viewed them as "starters," and older couples who had seen their children grow and leave, or who had suffered economic reverses. And people like Shoogey, whose reasons for living there were matters of idle speculation.

It wasn't long after I began practicing law that we bought that house.

I had taken night classes at the law school while teaching history classes during the days. I taught history at Magruder High School in Baltimore, the very same high school I'd attended as a boy and Angie as a girl. The Revolutionary War. The Civil War. The Spanish-American War. Two World Wars. I was a fair teacher, perhaps better than fair, and I would like to think that my students liked and respected me. They knew about my night classes and, perhaps because I was a student, too, they often confided in me about the indignities and heartaches they suffered. I tried to assure them that the indignities and heartaches would all end once they graduated, once they found jobs they liked, once they met perfect girls (or boys). That was, after all, what happened to me. Or so I thought.

After graduating from law school, I resigned my teaching job at Magruder to work for a law firm by the name of Morrisey & DeWitt in downtown Baltimore. Compared with what I'd been paid as a teacher, Morrisey & DeWitt paid me well, and Angie and I were able to make a substantial down payment on our house as a result. It was a small cottage of a place, just big enough for Angie and me and our daughters. The house was painted the rusty color of tobacco spit, with shutters that peculiar shade of yellow one associates with a colicky baby. The house didn't remain those colors for long; we had it repainted blue and white at the earliest opportunity. Blue and white, the colors of the Magruder High School athletic teams, as chance would have it. We kept the basketball hoop over the garage door.

We had only been living in the neighborhood for a week or so when Angie and I first noticed Shoogey. His house was on the same side of the street as ours, six doors down, and when we drove past one evening, we noticed him lurking in the half-darkness by the hedges in his front yard. His head was bowed, his arms locked to his sides, his body twisted into a question mark of sorts. It wasn't until a white rat scurried from between his feet, then slowed, then stopped and resolved itself into a golf ball that we realized what he was doing.

"Who practices his putting in the dark?" Angie asked.

"Our neighbors, apparently. It could be worse though."


"He could be skeet shooting," I said.

"Yes, that would be worse. Promise me you won't ever do that."

"What, play golf at night or skeet shoot?"

"I was thinking about golf, but you might as well include the other one, too."

We didn't meet Shoogey that evening. In fact, we didn't even know his name and wouldn't for several weeks more until the night we heard a rap at our front door. There were several knocks, each louder and more urgent than the one that preceded. It was nearly midnight, and I had to search for my teeth on the nightstand. My own teeth had been knocked from my mouth during a basketball game in high school, and I've been forced ever since to wear a dental plate made by an orthodontist here in Baltimore, a Dr. Miles Mansfield.

Even after all these years, they still rattle around my mouth some, making a noise only I can hear -- brack-a-brack-a-brack -- like dishes clanking, like some giant piece of machinery running without oil.

My teeth in place, I grabbed the first thing I could lay my hands on -- a broom we'd left in the hallway after one of our continuing, desperate attempts to clean the mess the previous owners had left for us. Old newspapers and magazines. Boxes of crackers and rotten apple cores and orange hulls under the sink. Mildew and stained carpeting.

Barefoot, I carried the broom down the hall. My teeth rattled, or I imagined that they did. I groped in the darkness for the light switch in the living room, then flicked the porch light on as well, and I peered through the windowpane: gnats floated drunkenly around the yellow bulb of the porch light, and our neighbor shielded his eyes, a hand at his brow like a serviceman saluting, his head bowed almost precisely as it had been when he'd been practicing his golf game in his yard, which may have been how I recognized him.

I opened the door and our neighbor squinted, battling the lights to look at me. He was a tall man and on the thin side of things. Slumping, he gave the impression of having plenty of muscles and tissues and blood, but very few bones. He wore a lopsided gray suit and a limp, stained shirt, and he'd just shaved: there were flecks of drying blood on his cheekbone and jaw. As for his hairstyle, it was no style at all; his thick, black hair stood up in all directions like the weedy lawn before a haunted house.

"Hello. How are you?" he said. Before I answered, he volunteered, "I'm fine."

"Good," I said.

"Are you Ashe?" he asked. "Are you the one and only Hamilton Ashe?"

"I am," I lied. There's actually another man named Hamilton Ashe, a tailor in Atlanta to whom I once spoke to on the phone to discuss our shared name, but I'm sure the man at the door wasn't looking for him. The man extended an enormous hand to me. I took it cautiously in my own. All but his thumbnail were bitten to the cuticles.

"I'm Sam Shoogey," he announced, "the novelist. I live down the street." He tipped his head in the direction of his home.

"I know."

Suddenly, a tremendous smile crept over his face as if there were some smaller man living within him, pulling at tiny wires connected to his lips and the corners of his eyes. He raked his fingers through his hair in an attempt to give it some semblance of order.

"Oh, you've read my books?"

I shook my head to confirm that I hadn't, which I later regretted: it wouldn't have been too much for me to fib. "What I meant was that I know you live down the street," I said. "We've seen you. In your yard. You were playing golf. We saw you."

"Oh." The small man released the wires, and Shoogey rubbed the tip of his nose to conceal his disappointment. "I thought you meant that you'd read my books. Well, I suppose most writers' work isn't fully appreciated until they're dead. I'd like to think my death is eagerly awaited." He forced a smile. "In any event, my friend, I need your help," he said, then he stepped gingerly into the house like a man easing himself into a rowboat. Once inside, he described a small circle, surveying the living room which was in a state of disarray. The furniture was clustered in the center of the room and draped with old, thin bed sheets. If the paint on the outside of the house had been bad, the inside was unbearable. The dining room had been left the dark, brilliant red of a matador's cape, and the paint on the windowsills and the wainscoting was chipped, revealing the yellow wood beneath. Angie and I had been spending our evenings and weekends scraping and sanding and painting like madmen.

Masking tape framed the windowpanes, and the sweet, intoxicating smell of paint permeated the house like the faint whiff of a turkey dinner cooking.

When he'd completed his circle, Shoogey gave me a puzzled look.

"What were you going to do with that?" he asked. He gestured toward the broom, which I'd forgotten was in my hands.

"Nothing. I thought you might be a burglar."

"Were you planning on cleaning up after I stole everything?"

"No" I said, embarrassed. "I guess I was going to smack you over the head with it."

"Before or after I shot you?"

"Hopefully before."

I leaned the broom against the wall.

"Well, I don't have a gun, so I suppose it's a good thing for me that you didn't take a swing at me. Now, I understand that I probably took you by surprise, my friend. I was just in the need of some assistance, and I believe you're the man I'm looking for."

When I asked him what he needed help with, he said, "Well, you're a lawyer, aren't you? Braverman says you're a lawyer. You know, Braverman down the street."

Shoogey tipped his head again, in the same direction as when he'd indicated his own address.

"Braverman? I don't know anyone by that name. We're new here."

Shoogey parted his lips to speak again, but just then Angie called from the hallway. "Ham?" she said. "Ham, who are you talking to?"

"It's Mr. Shoogey from down the road."

"Sam," he called to her pleasantly. Then, to me, he said, "Everyone calls me Sam," which was the first lie he ever told me: no one -- no one -- ever called him Sam. Shoogey was Shoogey, like Dillinger was Dillinger, Picasso Picasso, Gandhi Gandhi.

But mostly Dillinger Dillinger.

"Who?" she said.

"The golfer," I answered.


"The skeet shooter."

Angie took several small steps down the hall, then bent slightly and peered at us, pinching her bathrobe closed at the neck with one hand, at the waist with the other. She and Shoogey exchanged squints. Then she pitched her head to one side, sending her black hair flying in a manner that a boy might find charming and beguiling and that might very well send the heart racing, that might make him want to caress the nape of her neck.

"Is everything okay?" she said.

"Everything's fine," Shoogey said, swatting at the air with one hand. "Just a little matter I need to discuss with your husband. I'll just be a second, then I'll be on my way and -- " he paused, searching for my first name, which I provided him only after making him wait an uncomfortable moment. "I'll be on my way, and Ham will come back to bed, and you won't even know he was gone. His absence will be like a dream."

Angie took two more steps down the hall. She bit down on her lip.

"Can I fix you both some coffee or something?"

"A scotch-and-soda would be nice," Shoogey said matter-of-factly, "if you don't mind." If he was joking, nothing in his expression revealed it.

Before Angie could answer, I said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Shoogey, but we don't have any scotch," which was true. I turned to Angie and gave her a look to assure her that everything was fine, but she remained fixed in her spot in the hall. "Really, sweetheart," I said. "Everything's okay. I'll be back in a minute. Go ahead. Go back to sleep."

Angie turned and disappeared down the hall, and Shoogey waited for the murmur of her slippered footsteps to dissolve before turning toward me again.

"No scotch, huh? You must have some hidden somewhere. A house without scotch is like a church without a collection plate." He began to stroll around the living room, then removed his suit jacket, revealing the entirety of his unlaundered shirt. Shapeless brown and gray stains had formed on the chest and armpits, and black dots the size of pinheads colored his frayed collar.

Shoogey removed a drop cloth and took a seat on the couch, then extended his arms like wings across its back. He crossed his legs at the knee in a manner that struck me as somewhat effeminate, then folded his suit jacket across his thigh. I sat across from him in a love seat that was also covered by a drop cloth.

"Your problem?" I reminded him.

"Yes, as I was saying, Braverman says that you're a lawyer. He says that you're a damn good one, that you work for a law firm downtown, Morrisey & DeWitt."

At that time, I'd only been out of law school for ten months or so and, contrary to whatever Braverman may have told him, I'd done nothing to distinguish myself in the field, and probably never would. Momentarily, though, I was flattered by Braverman's description. "I don't know how Braverman -- "

" -- That's a fine firm, Morrisey & DeWitt. You know, I'm awful friendly with Tom DeWitt. He and I go back a long, long ways. Do you know Tom?"

I said that I didn't, and Shoogey sniffed. "Tom was my roommate when I attended the University of Maryland. A real down-to-earth guy. We played football together. Even played in the Cotton Bowl together. A real experience that was. His brother's Carl DeWitt. You must know Carl."

"Not really."

Shoogey's eyes widened dramatically and he raised his voice slightly, scolding me: "You work for the man's law firm and you don't know him? Well, I'm just shocked, just shocked as can be."

"It's a big law firm," I said in my defense, "and I'm in a different department than Mr. DeWitt. I'm in the corporate department, he's in litigation. They're two completely different worlds." I held my hands far apart to demonstrate.

"Well, you really should get to know Carl DeWitt. He's a prince of a man, just a prince. He'd give you the shirt off his back, that's the kind of guy he is. That's the kind of guy I am, too. I'd give you the shirt right off my back in a second. Not this one, of course" -- he gestured to indicate the shirt he was wearing -- "this one I wouldn't give to a dog. But my point's the same. I'd give you anything you needed, no questions asked, be it a shirt, money, food, a scotch-and-soda, you name it. It's that kind of thinking that gets me in trouble, though. You're generous and people just take and take and take, and then one day you have to say no, and -- boom -- they stab you in the back. You got any kids?"

"Two." I held up two fingers on my right hand.

"Girls or boys?"

"Both girls."

Shoogey swatted at the air and grinned. "See, that's something we've got in common already. I got a girl, too. Probably quite a bit older than your girls, but the same chromosomes. I've got a girl and a boy. Anyway, I've got some troubles, and I need a lawyer. I need a good lawyer, and Braverman says you're tops."

"Well, if it's strictly a legal matter, we could talk about it tomorrow at my office since it's so late now. We could set up an appointment for the morning."

I started to rise from the love seat, but Shoogey merely pursed his lips and shook his head slowly side to side. "Oh, I wish we could, my friend, I really do, but I need to talk with you immediately. You see, my wife's filed for divorce. Years and years gone by, and they mean as much to her as the wind. She's trying to take everything from me, right down to my toenails, but I can tell you more about that later. She packed up her things and went to her mother's and -- well, I can tell you more about that later, too. My problem, my immediate problem, you see, is that I fired my lawyer this afternoon. Stanley McGee -- know him?"

I shook my head, no.

"Well, you don't want to know him. The man's got no balls. No cojones, as they say in Spain. It got to the point where I finally said to the guy -- this is a true story -- I said to him, 'Stand up and drop your pants.' And he said, 'What?' And I said, 'You heard me, McGee. Stand up and drop your pants so I can tell once and for all if you've got any balls.' I know it's crude of me to talk that way in your home, seeing as you've got girls and all, but, you see, my wife and her lawyer are robbing me blind, and he was practically helping them. Like he's an accomplice. Serves me right, though, for hiring a goy. We have to stick together," he said, and he crossed his middle finger tightly over his index finger and gave me a sly, wicked smile. "Me, you, Braverman, Lebowitz, Rubin -- "

" -- Mr. Shoogey?"


"Sam, I'm not Jewish," I said, which technically is true: though my father is Jewish, my mother is Roman Catholic and that was how I was reared. In Sunday school, I recited the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary. I don't know a word of Hebrew or Yiddish.

"No? God, with a name like Ashe, I thought for sure you were a good Jewish boy. Braverman said you were Jewish."

"Well, I'm not, and I don't know Braverman."

"I guess that makes sense if you think about it: a Jewish boy named 'Ham'? Something of a contradiction, isn't it? Sort of like a Muslim named 'Flank Steak.' Or a diabetic named 'Hershey.' Oh, we could make a splendid game of this, couldn't we?" He spoke a little too loudly now, hammering home his little joke as if he were trying to ring the bell at the state fair.

"How about an alcoholic named Bob Budweiser?"

Shoogey coughed once, then twice, like a sheep bleating. "Go ahead, you give it a try."

I stopped Shoogey by raising my hand beside my face, the same gesture I'd used countless times to hush my daughters. "Mr. Shoogey, whether or not I'm Jewish is neither here nor there. The important thing is that I'm not a divorce lawyer. Like I told you before, I'm a corporate lawyer. I work on things like reviewing contracts, helping out with sales or mergers. I don't do anything with divorces. That's not my specialty. But what I can do is I can find the names of some good divorce lawyers in town, and then I can pass them on to you tomorrow morning. We may even have some lawyers in the firm who handle divorces."

Again, he shook his head slowly side to side. "No, no. We can't do that."

"Why is that?"

"Well, my friend, it seems as if I have a hearing tomorrow morning at nine o'clock. It's called a pen-something hearing."

"Pendente lite," I said before I could stop myself: pen-den-tay lie-tay. "It's Latin."

"That's it -- pen-den-tay lie-tay. They're going to determine how much temporary alimony I have to give my wife until the divorce is final, things like that. But, see, you knew what it was called. You know what you're talking about. You'll be fine. You're hired. Congratulations, you've got yourself a client. Now, let's have a drink to celebrate."

"Knowing that term is nothing special, Mr. Shoogey. Like I said, it's just a Latin term. They teach you a lot of Latin terms in law school. It doesn't mean I know anything about divorce law. You really need someone who specializes in handling divorces."

Shoogey walled his eyes up into his head and chewed his lower lip. "I can't very well go in there alone, my friend, and you're the only lawyer I know. Other than Carl DeWitt, of course, and I can't very well call him at this late hour." He rotated his wrist as if to look at his watch, but he didn't look at it. "I can't very well call up a man of his stature, the name partner in one of the best law firms in town, to talk to him about my little problem. Unless, of course, you recommend it," he crooned softly.

Shoogey had me in a bind, and you could tell he knew it. He knew that I couldn't refuse a friend of Carl DeWitt's without considerable risk to my job. Striving to shape an answer that would get me out of this predicament, I came up empty.

"Fine," I finally said. "Fine. I'm going to have to do some research first before I even figure out what kind of questions to ask you at the hearing."

A smile oiled Shoogey's face. Relief or satisfaction, it was hard to tell. "Good. You do that. You figure out what to ask me, and I'll tell you everything you want to know. You ask me who shot Liberty Valance, and I'll tell you. I'll cooperate fully."

I told Shoogey to meet me at my office at seven o'clock the next morning so we would have time to prepare for his hearing.

"Seven o'clock it is," he said. "Seven, that'll be easy to remember. It's the number of Deadly Sins. The number of Seas. The number of Wonders of the World. The number of Dwarfs. The number of Brides for Seven Brothers. The number of Commandments, if you don't count the last three." He rose and headed toward the front door, then stopped in his tracks. Suddenly, his expression was sober. "There's one thing you should know." He wagged his index finger in the air. "My friend," he said, "this will all end badly."

When I didn't respond, he continued: "I know that for a fact. I know it will all end badly. You see, I went to see my wife the other night to try to patch things up, but we couldn't even talk in a civilized manner, in a manner that people who live in a civilization should speak. Eventually, I lost my temper and I said some horrible things to her. Horrible, terrible, evil things. You see, she was slapping me and beating her fists against me like she was pounding bread dough -- boom! boom! boom! boom! boom! -- and it just went on and on. Before I knew it, I'd lost my temper. Oh, the things that came out of my mouth. I'm ashamed. I just said them to get her away from me, mind you, but I said them nevertheless. That's when I realized that this will all end badly. There's nothing you personally can do about that. I guess I just need you to control the damage. I need you to make sure I walk out of this with something other than the shirt on my back. Particularly, this shirt."

"We can talk about all that in the morning," I answered with a cock of my head and a too-big smile meant to usher him toward the door. He followed my suggestion, carrying his suit jacket by his fingertips. His shirt, stained as it was, had every right to be foul, but it wasn't at all; instead, as I stood beside him now, it seemed that if the shirt gave off any odor at all it was -- was it possible? -- the faint, sweet smell of peaches.

Shoogey pulled his jacket on, then extended his hand to me, and we shook. He pushed the door open and stepped onto the porch, where the gnats greeted him like a long-absent friend, diving for his lips.

"I'll be there at seven o'clock on the nose," he said. Then, as if he'd forgotten something, he turned and added, "My friend."

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You Poor Monster 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the most creative book I have read in a long time. It is a masterful web of what life is really about. If you are tired of series and just want to read one good book, this one is a must for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very fun, very funny, well-written book. What's true? What's not true? Does it matter?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. It wasn't nearly as funny as I had anticipated, with a cleverly sad ending, but overall I enjoyed it. I was slightly confused at times identifying what was real and what wasn't, but I would definatley recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You Poor Monster is an excellent read. Thought provoking, laugh out loud funny, sweet, sad, beautifully written. I didn't read the endnotes until the very end, and then I was amazed. I had to rethink the whole book. This is a great achievement by an excellent writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A simply breathtaking book. A literary achievement that should make Kun one of the best known writers in the country. Just a hunch that this one's going to win the National Book Award. If it doesn't, someone's going to have to publish one hell of a book in the next 6 months.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an incredible book. Profound, funny and sad. It tells two parallel stories that come together at the very end. It really makes you smile, and think.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that is truly like no other. The main text tells one great story, while the endnotes tell a parallel story. When you're done, the only thing you know for sure is that you have just read a book called 'You Poor Monster' and are better for having done so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kun shows many dimensions in his latest work, in this reader's opinion his best to date. Any life is a blend of laughter and tears, and the choice is ours which we cling to more tightly. In this book, Kun weaves the tales of author and subject through the clever and novel use of several devices in a tale that raises some basic questions about how and on what basis we make judgments about others (is it simply what they tell us and the confidence with which it's told?) and whether we ever know enough about them or even about ourselves to make any kind of judgment at all. A solid and thoughtful read. In the interest of full disclosure, this reader is aquainted with the author. Or, after pondering this book, at least I think I am.