Sunday, 8 January 2012

Greg Olear - Fathermucker

A screenwriter, fledgling freelancer, and stay-at-home dad of two, Josh Lansky has held everything together during his wife Stacy's week-long business trip--until this morning's playdate, when he finds out through the mommy grapevine that Stacy might be having an affair. What Josh needs is a break. He's not going to get one.

“This brilliantly insightful novel explores the trials of modern fatherhood through one hectic day... Littered with hilariously genuine anecdotes, parental pathos, and a hearty dose of pop culture, this clever, comic, and compassionate novel will appeal to fans of Jim Lindberg and Jonathan Evison.” (Booklist )

“A lively and keenly observed portrait of twenty-first century parenthood.” (Penthouse )

“All kinds of funny-raucously, wickedly, sweetly, saucily, surprisingly, profanely funny…a wonderful novel, capturing in a single manic day the helpless ache of parenthood and the ceaseless flood of popular culture.” (Jess Walter, author of The Financial Lives of the Poets )

“Fathermucker is witty, realistic, and charming, replete with a father’s genuine love for his family. An entertaining choice for book clubs members of both genders, particularly those with young children.” (Library Journal )

Great review - On Amazon
Funny and a little heartbreaking, sexy and more than a little subversive, insightful and allusive--not adjectives you'd necessarily think would describe a novel about 24 hours in the life of a harried stay-at-home dad. At least not based on my own occasional stay at home experience(s). But in Fathermucker, Greg Olear manages to squeeze all that and more into a single day, making even the most banal aspects of child-rearing (and, let's be honest, there's a lot of them) pretty damn entertaining. This is a book about parenting, about marriage, about gender dynamics, about pop culture--about what it means to be a good father, and a good husband.

Do we need any more of these types of books? I wouldn't have thought so, but the answer appears to be an emphatic yes.

The obvious antecedent is Little Children--as pointed out in the PW review, although they spell Tom Perrotta's name wrong--but aside from the surface element of having stay-at-home dads as central characters, the two books have little in common. Perrotta's main concern seemed to be telling an amusing but unabashedly ready-for-Meg Ryan story, while Olear is on the whole more ambitious, his subversion not just a product of afternoon adultery, but what treads deep (and frighteningly) in the water of the parental soul. By the end of the book, there's not much about Josh Lansky we don't know  his flaws are readily apparent. Olear channels Joyce more than he does Perrotta--although Fathermucker is way more fun-and much shorter-than Ulysses. At least I think it is, since I gave up on Ulysses halfway through and read Beyond The Valley of the Dolls instead.

At any rate, although there are elements of his debut novel, Totally Killer, that survive in this sophomore effort--the engaging first-person narrator, the rude obsession with pop culture, and the MacGuffin of a mystery--this is a different kind of work. It's a "Way We Live Now" sort of story that sharply elbows out a space in the queue to become the definitive stay-at-home dad novel.