Tom Farrell is a walking one-liner, an acerbic Manhattan tabloid editor whose cache of female companions belies his single status. Beneath his abundant "manboy" flesh, Tom yearns for beautiful co-worker Julia. It’s unrequited love, but no matter; Tom has plenty more to say about 30-something bachelor life: barhopping, his dirty apartment ("it has a died-in look"), and the inner-workings of tabloid journalism, "where every day is spent abusing three drugs: caffeine, MSG and information." Not until terrorists attack New York in September 2001 do Tom’s sophomoric ways crumble under the sad vacuity of his life.
Morrow. 352 pages. $23.95.
San Francisco Chronicle
"[Smith] is a natural storyteller with an extraordinarily keen ear for dialogue that is real, hip and witty without being too much so—no small feat. … But it is Tom Farrell’s self-denigrating humor that makes the book the riotous success it is." Jeanene Harlick
"Love Monkey is not heavy on plot, but it doesn’t need to be. … Smith has succeeded brilliantly in fashioning a character that will make you laugh and make you wince." Carole Goldberg
"[Love Monkey] is cleverly, breathlessly written, with laughs on every page. … [But it’s] a tough turnaround, fitting terrorist attacks into a comic story about unrequited love." Hannah Sampson
"Smith writes well although he seems generically and genetically programmed to spit out the glossy, trendy phrases of the week, coming across … [like a] Mountain Dew commercial. … [T]he antics of shallow, bordering-on-loser regular Joe are worth a few laughs—but wait for the cheaper paperback release." Kim Crow
"Listening to [Tom] rant is like being stuck on a cross-country bus handcuffed to a morning-zoo deejay. … Tom is such a one-note character that when Smith wants to give him some dimension he has nothing to work with." Rodney Welch
"A first novel deserves a serious handicap, but this book’s is nearly spent in its opening pages. … Love Monkey is eerily empty, like a city after the plague." Stephen Metcalf
Humor is subjective, which could explain the mixed reaction to Love Monkey, the first novel from People’s music and book review editor. Critics praise Smith’s dead-on descriptions of the tabloid newsroom and his wisecrack-spinning stamina. They diverge in their patience for immature protagonist Tom Farrell and questioning of Smith’s real understanding of women. Most agree that Smith introduces the September 2001 terrorist attacks without grace. At best, Love Monkey is a witty, irreverent look at mating, dating, social norms, and professional dissatisfaction. At worst, it is a shallow treatise on self-pity that tries, but fails, to outdo successful works by writers of the same genre, including Nick Hornby, David Sedaris, and Helen Fielding.
About a Boy | Nick Hornby (1998): Guys can do much better than Love Monkey. We picked Hornby’s About a Boy because everyone’s already read his High Fidelity. You haven’t?