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Odd job queen Starshine Hart is about to go on somebody else’s perfect date At 29 the usually carefree Starshine has realized that it is easier to start sleeping with a man than to stop Her lovers include one of the last underground members of the Weathermen and the dilettante heir to a lawn chair magnate Both men have staked their romantic future on her Her only respite is her impending dinner with the nonthreatening but unattractive tour guide Larry Bloom But Larry too has a stake in her future He has written a book about their impending dinner in which he fantasizes about Starshine’s life on the day he wins her heart Juxtaposing moments from Larry’s guided tour of New York City on the June day of his “dream date” with excerpts from the novel in which he imagines Starshine’s concurrent escapades this inventive structure weaves a highly imaginative love story across all five boroughs Provocative funny and keenly observed an imagined pilgrimage through the underbelly of Gotham becomes a bold new voice in contemporary American fiction


10 thoughts on “The Biology of Luck

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    A fun quick read which grew on me after initial impressions of being too clever for its own good We are treated to the independent adventures of a man and a woman on a single Spring day in New York who are to meet for a dinner date in the evening They are self centered and shallow in many ways but they have enough verve and impulses toward kindness that I was eager to participate in their evolution Leo Bloom is a homely awkward tour guide who has taken an obsessive fancy for lovely Starshine and schemes how to win her heart through success with his first novel The young lady of his dreams thrives on marginal jobs and creative approaches for warding off all the men drawn like moths to her flame She seeks respect and fame not money or status and though she has a lot of empathy for the downtrodden and her ailing demented aunt she is not above using her looks to gain favors There are such delightful slices of life and hope in this story as expressed here with Bloom setting out on his day it’s a beautiful Harlem morning scented with maple blossoms and exotic fruit and he is happy happy in the way he knows he knows he can be if he wills away the inevitable and succors himself with the remotest of hopes That is the purpose of his book that is the subject of his book That is the reason that the city rises from its slumberThe challenge a reader faces is what to make of the structure The Bloom parts are from an omniscient narrator while the alternating chapters on Starshine’s day are from Bloom’s manuscript novel A novel within a novel which Bloom has been working on for two years We have no choice but to accept that Starshine keeps two dates with her existing lovers on the fateful day we are in with the main narrative on Bloom one a lawn chair magnate’s heir and the other an aging Weatherman They are colorful and lively characters as are many of the minor cast members of this comic and satirical romance We have no window into inevitable discrepancies between what is made up in Bloom’s novel and their veracity from the perspective in the “true” narrative The exception is the Armenian florist known to both Bloom and Starshine the character who espouses the theory of the “biology of luck” Some may take the book’s structure as gratuitous pomo mind bending I took Appel’s writing tactic as a source of good dose of whimsy that kept the sappiness quotient down A day in the life of a tour guide was a cool way to swim through the five boroughs of New York and get a slice of the paradox of an unsustainable city sustaining itself so well over history In an interview at the end of the book the author shares how his experience as a tour guide informs his coverage of the subject There he admits to paying some homage to Joyce’s portrayal of a day in Leopold Bloom’s life in “Ulysses” He also explains that he made frequent reference to Whitman because he is “the patron saint of New York of hopeless romance and of wandering—all of which are at the core of this novel” When asked why he called the book a postmodern love story Appel admits a debt to Barthelme and Barth but notes that mainly “I meant that love itself is ‘postmodern’—hyperaware ambivalent fragmented That’s the world of romance that we live in today” The humor in the book never went over the top enough to make me laugh out loud and the romance and pathos of the story didn’t wrench my emotions extensively Still it was a playful romp and by the end of the book I found I had marked a dozen or so passages for their kernels of truth and beauty Enough to make me hold good expectations for future books This book was provided by the publisher as part of the Goodreads Giveaway program