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IN BRIEF

Fiction

June 16, 1996|CHRIS GOODRICH

GETTING OVER HOMER by Mark O'Donnell (Alfred A. Knopf: $21; 193 pp.). Many novels that lend themselves to quotation aren't very good, the author spending an inordinate amount of creative energy just setting up the next scene's punch line. That's emphatically not true of "Getting Over Homer," though, or at least its first half, for Mark O'Donnell (also author of the much less successful "Vertigo Park") doesn't have to work at being funny.

Blue Monahan, the gay, semi-successful songwriter who narrates this book, simply can't help wearing his heart on his sleeve, and the result is a charming, thorough-going ruefulness causing him to dispense offhandedly such gems as "envy is the best measure of anything's worth" or that being dumped romantically is "like getting fired from your evenings and weekends." Blue is particularly despondent over the loss of Homer, a dreamboat, bigger-than-life party planner (his company is called A Business Doing Pleasure With You), for reasons the needy, puppy-like Blue can't fathom.

The rise and fall of the relationship is sweet and poignant, what with Homer's extravagance and Blue's self-deprecation ("I can't fake it now like I could then," he says of his failure to write a hit song since the age of 11), but Blue's slow recovery in the second half of the book, largely through a much less sexy relationship, is a disappointing shadow of the first. The seeming double-entendre of O'Donnell's title implies Blue will exact some revenge from the commitment-fleeing Homer, but that never happens, perhaps because Blue is too nice and too timid to hurt anyone.

All in all, though, "Getting Over Homer" is hard to resist, heartbreak being a language nearly everyone understands.

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