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Friday, December 15, 2006


Jernigan by David Gates

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

July 18, 2005

If nothing else, "Jernigan" is great catharsis. No matter how bad your life gets, here's someone who's probably got it worse than you. A drunk man-child who loses a finger and thumb through his own stupidity. He lives with a woman who works sporadically and subsists on rabbits she raises (then butchers) in her basement. There's not much hope for his son Danny either, who wants to be a heavy-metal guitarist, but whose first band breaks up when the bass player kills himself.

The book follows Peter Jernigan through about a year after his wife dies when she gets behind the wheel of a car--drunk and naked--and is killed pulling out of the driveway into traffic. Jernigan's life falls apart further from there when he and Danny shack up with Martha and her daughter, which makes for a weird little foursome. Jernigan loses his job and spends months getting drunk on gin, watching Star Trek, and otherwise lounging around Martha's house. By the end his life spins so far out of control that he winds up shooting himself and almost freezing to death, which is actually recounted in the beginning.

As entertaining as I found Jernigan's narration to be, I wondered at the end about the point to it all. I suppose it's most likely that the author was holding up Jernigan as some symbol of Reagan-era suburban Americana. Didn't really work for me, because I think he's a little more screwed up than your average person. But it makes a great cautionary tale.

One thing I found more and more irritating as the novel wore on was the constant use of italics in dialog. Every sentence seemed to feature one word in italics, for annunciation purposes I assume. It was clever at first, but after a while it got irritating. Italics are one of those devices based used in rare occasions because it loses effect the more one uses it.

I got this really cheap, so I feel no guilt about reading this book. It makes my life seem a lot less messed-up by comparison. So if you're in the need for some catharsis, I'd say to give this a try.

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