Anyone unfortunate enough to earn or learn a living in the book business will relish the back-biting behind the back-slapping in this artful novel about the wiles of writers, editors, publishers and hangers-on. Every character, as a matter of fiction, is a hanger-on here, trying to survive over somebody else's live body.
Anyone affluent enough to experience an enclave existence will recognize the incestuous absurdity of what happens in the Hamptons where Jimmy's bar functions as a cathedral plaza, with residents assigned their squatting places on the basis of being year-rounders, summer-dwellers or mere weekenders. Similar foolishness--involving in-groups within in-groups--occurs in Laguna, Key West and Carmel.
Many normal people may also enjoy the way Wilfrid Sheed puts his needle to puncturing accepted public wit or attributed private wisdom at the same time: "The line on bartenders is pretty d1769169775idea about writing altogether. For one thing, they assume their readers are drunk. They picture a circle of eager, merry fellows, ever ready for a good roar, instead of the pinched-up people in apartments, worried sick about their regularity, who comprise the actual reading public."
A real writer is at work here, one with a keen sense of selves--self-worshiping and self-deprecating. He knows how writers band together against the alleged greed and stupidity of publishers and editors. He knows how those same writers also feel superior, each to each, even while banded together. And he knows how the other side feeds, parasitically, off the writers' work: "Luckily," says narrator and publisher Jonathan Oglethorpe, "I have my own little ego to keep me warm. I also believe that I am better than all of them, only with the good taste not to put it in writing."