A terrific reprint of a forgotten but funny writer, stories from the 1960s and 70s packaged together as two novels. Based mostly in NYC, with flights of fancy in Florida and Hollywood, we follow Julian/Arthur through the disintegration of his marriage to Daisy/Violet, wrapped in the tight family embrace of Upper West Side Jewish parents, bailing Violet’s ex-husband out of jail and loaning him money, forever cheating on his wife (and she occasionally on him), watching his step-children grow up, separating from his wife then suggesting that she move into the garden level apartment of his building, a fishing rod sending down the monthly check from Mr. Al E. Mony, perpetually shuffling in his loafers, moaning to his therapist, watering plants and walking dogs. Aghast to find he has left his newly-purchased reading glasses on while masturbating. Creeping around the Beverly Hills hotel in his raincoat and pajamas to track down a hitherto unknown bird (“I’m an ignoramus west of the Rockies”). Told to count sheep in order to sleep, he realizes he doesn’t know enough about sheep vis-a-vis fences, so calls up a sheep association that puts him on the phone with a sheep owner to burst the myth that sheep would ever jump one after the other over a fence.
An example of the sheer insanity bouncing around this man’s head:
The bedroom floor creaks alarmingly when Albert does his push-ups. What if it gave way and he descended, outstretched, into the apartment below like a poorly coordinated quattrocento angel? Suppose he crashed through a number of apartments in a hail of lath, plaster, Sheetrock, excelsior, whatever’s in there, his undershorts fluttering, wearing what an astonished succession of tenants took to be an insipid smile but was in fact an artistic convention.
This, he realizes, is preposterous; he lives on the third floor. Plummeting through two apartments to fetch up in a boiler room wouldn’t be worth the pain and suffering, regardless of the sensation he caused. Worse, there might be nobody at home. To drop unnoticed through vacant rooms seems to Albert to be an act that could only lower one’s spirits.