Don Noble
4:53 pm
Mon June 21, 2004

Life is a Strange Place

Life Is a Strange Place is set in New Orleans, but not really. Instead, it is set in dreamland; it is a dreamscape. Barry has landed in a frustration dream where whatever he attempts will not go right.

Frank Turner Hollon practices law in Baldwin County, Alabama, and although apparently almost all attorneys think they can write fiction, in this case it?s true. Hollon has published four novels in very short order, The Pains of April in 1999, The God File in 2002, A Thin Difference in 2003, and, also in 2003, this novel, Life Is a Strange Place.

Because he is earning his living as a lawyer, and has not quit his day job, Hollon can write whatever he likes, without regard for pleasing a wide audience, and his subject matter can be quite odd.

The God File tells the story of a penitentiary prisoner who is working at proving the existence, or not, of the deity. The Pains of April is set in a nursing home. Only A Thin Difference is a legal thriller.

This new novel is a nightmare. I mean it is like a nightmare, a frustration dream, a sequence of events from which the protagonist is struggling to awake, but cannot. It is absurd, surrealistic.

The protagonist is Barry Munday, a feckless thirty-three-year-old who cares about nothing, repeat nothing, except picking up women, any and all women.

One day he picks up a sixteen-year-old girl in a movie theatre concession stand and, after bribing her with expensive coke and popcorn, they go into the dark. Suddenly, in medias res, they are set upon by her father, who attacks Barry viciously with a trumpet.

When Barry awakens in the hospital, he is sterile. He had been so badly injured, the doctors found it necessary to castrate him.

From here, one might imagine, matters could only improve, but such is not the nature of nightmare.

He is no sooner home than he receives a letter from a lawyer. He has been accused in a paternity suit. Prior to this moment, Barry would have fought the suit. He can?t remember the girl?s name, and then, upon meeting her, cannot remember the girl, but since he is now sterile, the idea of becoming a father has an enormous attraction.

Barry signs the papers and takes full responsibility for the baby who, when born, Ginger names Cornelia. Just Cornelia, like Liberace or Madonna.

Barry falls dead in love with the baby and never notices or seems to hear when a number of people remark, what a pretty Chinese baby. He is in a trance. The whole novel, it seems, is in a trance.

Life Is a Strange Place is set in New Orleans, but not really. Instead, it is set in dreamland; it is a dreamscape. Barry has landed in a frustration dream where whatever he attempts will not go right.

When he goes to dinner at Ginger Farley?s parents? expensive home in the Garden District, the toilet overflows and floods the room and the hallway. He panics and escapes out the bathroom window.

His idiot friend Dumb Donald takes him to a bar to watch midget wrestling. It turns out to be a gay bar and, in a really wonderful misunderstanding, Barry insults the midgets and they gang up on him and beat him unmercifully.

Need I say, this grotesquely politically incorrect novel is not for everyone. Barry moves from one catastrophe to the next. He cannot escape. He might be paranoid, in rational real life, but in this narrative he is the victim of a massive conspiracy. It seems everyone in New Orleans is out to get him.

Barry is attacked by a Great Dane, then arrested for cruelty to animals. He returns home one day to find himself the subject of a forced ?intervention? by the AAGA, the American Association of Genitalia Abnormalities.

The novel is in its own way a riot or an agony, depending on the reader?s attitude. I can?t see this book on the best-seller list, but, as I said, Hollon hasn?t quit his day job and can write anything he wants.

Related Program