A hilarious, ingeniously conceived, sexy romp of a novel, The Man Who Wrote the Book is another triumph by novelist Erik Tarloff, author of the critically acclaimed national best-seller Face-Time.
Ezra Gordon's life is falling apart. His job as an underpaid literature professor at a small Baptist college in California is in jeopardy because he can't get his act together to write any articles for academic journals, he has a ferocious case of writer's block and hasn't written a poem in years, and he is in a lukewarm relationship with the icily disapproving Carol, daughter of the fearsome college trustee, the Reverend Dimsdale. And his doctor has just told him that, physically, at the age of 35, it's all downhill from here.
To escape a dreary spring break on campus, Ezra heads to Los Angeles to visit Isaac Schwimmer, an old college friend. There's nothing wrong with Isaac's life -- he's a fabulously successful publisher of pornographic books, his social life is a bachelor's fantasy, and he lives next door to a Penthouse model as smart as she is beautiful (well, almost). When Isaac proposes that Ezra write a dirty book for a little fast cash, Ezra takes him up on the offer. Little does he know that his book, Every Inch a Lady (by "E.A. Peau") will radically change his life, and throw the campus into chaos.
The Man Who Wrote the Book, while evoking great academic satires from authors like David Lodge and Kingsley Amis and inviting comparison to Philip Roth's sexy masterpiece Portnoy's Complaint, remains the unique vision of Erik Tarloff. With his singular blend of humor, sharp insight into human relations, and a poignant understanding of the human spirit, Erik has established himself as an engaging, provocative -- and extremely funny -- force in modern American literature.
It takes a bit of doing to create a sad sack ingrate of a protagonist and then actually get readers to root for him. Erik Tarloff's second novel, The Man Who Wrote the Book
, concerns a divorced college professor who teaches English lit at a Baptist college near Fresno, California. Ezra Gordon is in the disadvantageous position of being refused tenure by an institution he loathes. His love life isn't so much a wreck as a mere stall--he's lackadaisically dating Carol, a lawyer for the college who, not to put too fine a point on it, won't put out. Driving her home from a date, he muses, "Failed husband, failed father, failed poet, failed scholar, and any minute now, failed lover."
Ezra looks up a former college chum, Isaac Schwimmer, over spring break, and heads down to Los Angeles for an impromptu visit. Isaac, it turns out, is a wildly successful publisher of pornography, and he introduces Ezra to a world of parties, drinking, and easy lovin'. He also introduces him to Tessa, who rates this eye-popping description:
Her skin was the color of a perfectly roasted Thanksgiving turkey, her copious cascading hair the color of butter. Her body was at once so firmly toned and so bounteously voluptuous it seemed to belong to some other, more evolved species of primate than the people he knew; her abs alone were sufficient to force any thinking person to reconsider the eugenic advisability of passing on his own DNA.
Ah, Herr Professor in love. And under the influence of Tessa's tender ministrations, Ezra discovers the one thing he doesn't stink at: writing utterly filthy porn.
Of course, when he returns to his college, his seemingly frigid girlfriend, and his foundering career, Ezra has to reconcile his new self--happy dirty-book writer--with his former self--miserable college professor. The two do find common ground in the end: "Strange how much pleasure he'd found in writing a stupid little dirty book; it had actually reawakened his joy in literature, reminded him why he'd gone to graduate school in the first place." Tarloff has a swell premise here, and this book--like his first, Face-Time--is quickly, thickly plotted. The writing may occasionally think it's more amusing than it really is, and some of the plot never comes home to roost, but it's plenty of fun to witness mopey Ezra endure success. --Claire Dederer