three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
59-July-Aug-2012
By: 
Mark Leyner
user_rating: 
0

748379.pngMark Leyner is a novelist best known for his satirical and experimental fiction, including The Tetherballs of Bougainville (1998) and My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist (1990). A New Jersey native, he is also the author of the nonfiction work Why Do Men Have Nipples? Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini (2005).

The Story: In Leyner's first novel since 1998, the gods reside atop Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in Dubai and the tallest manmade structure in the world. These aren't your traditional gods‚ no Zeus or Jupiter here. Instead, there's Doc Hickory, the god of money, and El Burbuja, the god of bubbles. Also El Brazo, the god of virility, urology, and pornography. The immortals busy themselves with petty jealousies and nasty turf battles. They toy with the humans to while away the centuries. And this time, they've set their sights on Ike Turner, a middle-aged, unemployed butcher from Jersey, to star in his own epic.
Little, Brown and Company. 256 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 9780316608459

Time 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Leyner compulsively takes recognizable verbal forms and idioms and crams them full of nonsense, as a way of exposing as bogus the adamancy and arrogance with which these forms present themselves as logical and meaningful, and the complacency with which we accept them as such." Lev Grossman

NYTimes Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Mark Leyner writes in a genre that could be called Mark Leyner: gun-to-the-head comedy delivered with a stratospheric I.Q. Just when it seems that, line by line, there might be no smarter writer on the planet, Leyner indulges in gleefully juvenile sprees of lewdness, asserting the sublime pleasures of the absurd." Ben Marcus

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[S]omehow both hilarious and extremely tedious‚ exhausting, puerile, and just brilliant enough to keep you from throwing it across the room." Rob Brunner

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"Readers hoping for a traditional narrative may be bewildered or enraged. What we get instead is a kind of farcical Genesis story filtered through the lower forms of reality television and grocery-store glossies all in revved-up language, much of which cannot be printed in a family newspaper." Ian Crouch

USA Today 2.5 of 5 Stars
"His jittery, genius pose seems like a carbon copy of the real thing: still smart, still funny, but aimed off-target and therefore a little out of date. It's as if Jerry Seinfeld took a decade and a half off and returned with more jokes about airline food." Don Oldenburg

Critical Summary

If nothing else, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack is a rich, raucous, and imaginative tale. Some critics absolutely loved it; Lev Grossman from Time, for example, described the novel as a "powerful concentrate of Ulysses." But the majority couldn't decide if Leyner is "a genius or a freak" (New York Times Book Review) and vacillated in their opinions of the work. Their chief complaint stemmed from the novel's structure, which consists largely of repeated paragraphs, instant-messaging threads, music lyrics, and tabloid headlines, which render parts "maddeningly unreadable" (Boston Globe). But beneath the excess and obvious satire lies a brilliant commentary on contemporary American society. This book certainly isn't for every reader‚ but even those whom it confounded could not put it down.