Good for Mark Leyner getting some cover copy from John Cusack and Todd Solondz, among others. It belies a bit of back-room schmoozability, or what some might call aloofness, and it’s precisely this that carries over into The Sugar Frosted Nutsack, Leyner’s latest and greatest. It’s meta-hip, packed with italics and bold phrases and bold italic phrases and obscure Wikipedia-powered pop-culture references and scores of exclamation marks! If it is true what F.S. Fitzgerald said, that an exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke, Nutsack reads like a grade-school standup act.
Conceptually, Nutsack is a post-modernish exercise in narrative form, reading like a sort of juvenile cosmic tale with specific references to New Jersey. It’s disjointed, heavy on repetition, light on character, and it’s an understatement to call it stylized. It’s hyper-stylized, really. And none of this is bad. However, as Nutsack shows, you can have too much of a good thing.
The novel is one non-sequitur after another. A collection of randomized verbage with recurring characters that was funny when you were 13, and for a certain crowd, it still is funny. Just string together a bunch of unrelated things and put an exclamation mark at the end of it. But 240 pages of this—”A terrarium containing three tiny teenage girls mouthing a lot of high-pitched gibberish (like Mothra’s fairies, except for their wasted pallors, acne, big tits, and T-shirts that read “I Don’t Do White Guys”) would inexplicably materialize, and then, just as inexplicably, disappear.“—it’s not exactly ‘nuanced.’
Take this: “High on ketamine, wearing silver lederhosen and a hat made out of an Oreo box at the time, he initially claimed he’d been hit by a Hasidic ambulance in an effort to foment an apocalyptic Helter Skelter-type war between club kids and Hasids.” Lederhosen jokes are located on the same ladder rung as ‘cheese’ and ‘spleen’ jokes (‘Do Not Stand Here’), and it gets more embarrassing from there. Not to mention ‘Oreo box.’ Why can’t it just be a box? Or, why does someone tripping on Special K need a box on his head? We’ve all seen that movie.
Sugar-frosted? I prefer au natural.
Publisher: Little Brown & Company