Sarvas on Wilcox

I’m on the road at the moment so I have to keep this brief, but I did want to point to Mark Sarvas‘s piece on James Wilcox’s new book Hunk City in this weekend’s NYTBR:

As in his prior novels, Wilcox’s narrative, which skitters like a stone thrown expertly across a country pond, delivers a high quotient of whimsy — Pickens’s assistant supplements his income by making office visits to floss his customers’ teeth. Wilcox’s books are full of flourishes like this, and they won’t be to every reader’s taste, especially those with a low threshold for quirkiness. His work is so crammed with complications — some subplots have subplots — that it’s occasionally hard to know what matters.

But Wilcox has always been about more than broad comedy. His men and women, though often clownish, are rarely cartoonish. He has a Dickensian knack for animating minor characters and an eye for the telling detail. “Though he was barely 23,” Wilcox writes of the professional flosser, “Edsell’s lantern jaw and narrow-set eyes gave him the spry, wizened look of an octogenarian.” Here in Barcalounger country, startled by a bit of unpleasant news, Pickens “pulled a lever and sat upright.” Burma’s mother, an especially memorable creation, invests “lavishly in a Chinese wardrobe not just to encourage capitalism in that bastion of godless Communism, but also because the high collars hid the scar from her goiter operation.”

Read it all here.