Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Organ Grinder and The Monkey by Sam Moffie

Reviewed for Review the Book
Published by Xlibris

I found this book unsettling, not in my comfort zone, although I can see there is humor, angst, poverty, imagination, unique characters, believability and hope. The story is mostly either in conversation or thoughts. Although I found the one-liners by Constance got tired very quickly, it seemed right. I loved the comical efforts to keep the memory of Dean Martin alive, Seymour's father's obsession. Seymour's Italian parents are divorced, his father gay and his mother fixated by the fact. It is very uncomfortable for him as a child to have overnight visits with his father, and yet daytime visits run fairly smoothly. The scene in which the character of Seymour is traumatized was difficult for me to read.

What I liked about the book was the building and shaping of the three main characters, Seymour, Irving, and Constance, from their struggling beginnings in the small, decrepit towns of Ohio and Massachusetts, to their lives in New York. The connection between Seymour and his "Papa" (grandfather) is a great comfort to this young impressionable boy, and a steadying influence for him. From him, Seymour became well-versed in the history of the town. With a chance to get away from Steubenville with an inheritance, Seymour's goal is to become a veterinarian, for which he has a special talent.

Irving, the son of radicals, mother Jewish and father Irish, gets assistance from a policeman in his old town, and decides to set his goal on being the "best cop in New York", a handsome goal that certainly has it's pitfalls in a world of corruption, but as a person who believes everything is a conspiracy, he has a better chance at keeping clean than most. Constance's ambition from her earliest days is to be a dancer with the Rockettes. Constance, raised by her mother alone, is both talented and beautiful. Her beauty plays against her in New York. These three innocents have never been out of their small towns before.

All three of our unlikely protagonists are very different with simply small town life and college as their connection. The novel is complex, informative, and shows us a slice of life that is almost impossible to overcome. Sam Moffie is definitely an exceptional author with his own style. Events throughout the book will take the reader through hilarity, tragedy, and determination against the odds.

Even the therapist is not altruistic, she is expecting to get a best-selling book out of her sessions with Seymour. He has now been diagnosed with split personality. Complications and changes soon begin moving thick and fast. Irving attends Al-Anon as well as therapy, trying to deal with his drug and alcohol addicted wife. Constance has everything she needs to be a Rockette and/or stand-out actress, but with no resume, she is now the victim of playing small parts off-off Broadway, and full-time dancer at the strip-club, S.T.R.I.P. It is hard not to become involved in the lives of these characters, a sign of a good author. This is definitely not a "feel-good" book but the intricacy and readers' fascination with every aspect of life, it is one of the best of its type. The book is intense, raw, with acts of deviant sexual extremes, and politically incorrect; shocking yet insightful. It speaks to a time of corruption, desperation, and victims of circumstance.

The characters, their dreams, their trials, their achievements all stand up to the test. The changes in Seymour's life midway through the book, build the story to the final outcome, as the story's focus speeds up. Interestingly, it seems at this point much like a thriller with cheat sheets, the reader knows who, but the characters don't. Few people other than the therapist come out ahead. “The Organ Grinder and The Monkey” was a "Best Books, USA Book News" Award Finalist. In the version I read, there are some Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussions in the back.


nightreader said...

I would not normally have read this book, but as a reviewer I believe it is my responsibility to be honest and fair in my assessment, and it is my honest opinion that this book is a well-written and informative book.

Unknown said...

Wow, this sounds like a tough read but I am very intrigued. Not my usual fare, either, by the sounds of it. But you've really got me interested!

nightreader said...

I know what you mean Nicola, but I think the book has merit, it just also has a bit more to chew on than I was prepared for, or maybe I should say a bit harder to chew in some places. ;-) Times were tough then.