Cover image for Light house : a trifle
Light house : a trifle
Monahan, William.
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Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
223 pages ; 21 cm
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'If James Joyce had rewritten The Tempest as an episode of Fawlty Towers, tossing in some gunplay and a duffle full of stolen drug money, he might've approximated Light House, but it still wouldn't've been as funny. What Mr. Monahan has created here is something we've been needing for a long time; a brilliantly savage modern satire which spares absolutely no one. It's sharper, nastier, and a helluva lot smarter and more literate than any contemporary novel has a right to be. ? ?Jim Knipfel, author of Slackjaw and Quitting the Nairobi TrioTim Picasso is a handsome young intellectual and frustrated painter. Turned down for an art fellowship (too heterosexual, not ethnic enough), his financial prospects dwindling, he finds himself accidentally involved in a drug deal. Resourcefully, he makes the drop but flees with the proceeds to the peaceful anonymity of the Admiral Benbow Inn. His fellow guests include an eccentric band of misfits: a bitter journalist from New York, with a personal vendetta against: a famous novelist who is there to give a fiction workshop, which is canceled--no one can make it through the storm, except (inexplicably): a Mafia don in pursuit of Tim and the missing cash, but distracted by both the innkeeper's philandering wife and: a cross-dressing contractor, who is restoring (and trapped in) the old lighthouse out at the point.Thus the stage is set for a weekend frolic of Seinfeldian coincidences, a theatrical series of mistaken identities, detours of sexual experimentation, and whiskey-soaked debates. Tempers and hormones flare with the storm. As the gale whips up, and waves crash through the windows of the billiard room, the unlikely stable of guests are forced to hunker down together to wait out the tempest. Full of wit and irony, Monahan's biting prose and artful storytelling leaves its impression long after the lighthouse has blown away.

Author Notes

William Monahan has written a Pushcart-Prize-winning short story, and the screenplay Light House , which has been optioned to Warner Bros. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he is at work on his second novel.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Aspiring artist Tim Picasso has just been passed over for a major arts grant, told by the powers-that-be that in today's art world, politics is the extenuation of talent. Broke, Tim ferries a shipment of drugs for kingpin Jesus Castro. Flush with cash, he hops a bus and by chance winds up at the Admiral Benbow Inn, a dilapidated New England bed-and-breakfast run by George, an Anglophile and failed poet, and his unhappy wife Magdalene, who tells him, "You're not avant garde. You suck." Completing this Sartrean madhouse is Simone the dominatrix; Professor Menelaus Eggman, who cultivates the mediocre writer in his students; literary poseur Mr. Glowery; and Mr. Briscoe, the transvestite lighthouse keeper. The art-world frauds and phonies all hope that avarice will give them the respect of their peers that would otherwise be unattainable given their lackluster talents. What follows is a very clever, witty, and sardonic novel about art, literature, love, and identity. Puns and double entendres speed the reader through the book. Stylistically, Monahan is paying tribute to Vladimir Nabokov's lush prose style and Kurt Vonnegut's acerbic humor. At heart, this is a wry novel of ideas and intellectual humor. What holds it together and makes it a success is Monahan's literary acumen and cerebral skill. --Ted Leventhal

Publisher's Weekly Review

Former Spy magazine scribe Monahan's satirical first novel is broad, freewheeling and scattershot. It's also very postmodern in a sometimes annoyingly hip, glib, Gen-X fashion; it's the quintessential antibildungsroman, detailing the nondevelopment of its 22-year-old protagonist, Tim Picasso. (Most characters here have similarly amusing--if unsubtle--monikers.) The book opens with a stale jab at political correctness and affirmative action: a brilliant painter, Tim is told by nitwit art professors that he's not "dispossessed enough" to get an art fellowship, so he turns to crime, stealing more than a million dollars from a sociopathic Cuban drug lord named Jesus Castro. Tim tries to lie low at the Admiral Benbow, a decrepit New England seaside hotel populated by a strange assortment of characters. Among them are pretentious innkeeper George Hawthorne and his stupid, horny wife, Magdalene; haughty but loopy writing-workshop-maven Professor Eggman; violently vindictive New York literary darling Glowery; redneck stereotype Edward Briscoe; and, of course, the murderous Jesus Castro himself, who has checked in under the unlikely nom de guerre of Wassermann. Soon, almost every type of hanky-panky conceivable is going on under the Admiral Benbow's shaky gables. Tim and Magdalene start up a silly affair, Jesus Castro engages in all-night s&m sessions with a dominatrix, and Castro's oily associate Cervantes is cornered and raped by the demented Briscoe. Between all these over-the-top shenanigans, Monahan has time for several pseudo-intellectual riffs (some funny, many simply facile) on everything from Joycean epiphany to Freudian analysis: "He wasn't actually commenting on the discontents of civilization. He was marketing new forms of discontent to the civilized!" Most of Monahan's observations are similarly arch and precious. Unfocused and sometimes smug, this novel may be enjoyed by those who like their satire lite. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A lively farce set in a New England bed-and-breakfast during a ferocious nor'easter, this first novel features an eclectic cast of characters. Frustrated painter Tom Picasso takes advantage of a chance to steal a large sum of money from a drug dealer. He arrives at the inn to decide what to do with his newfound wealth, unaware that the criminal he filched the money from is in the next room, relaxing with a dominatrix and plotting revenge. The innkeepers are an affected poet and his frustrated wife, who zeroes in on hunk Tom for some action. The romp spirals to include a closet transvestite washed ashore during the storm and an oddball writer and his nemesis, who are both at the inn for a fiction conference. As the storm escalates, so do the action and the absurdities in this well-written tale. Recommended for public libraries.DCathleen A. Towey, Port Washington P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.