The Biology of Luck: Jacob M Appel

biology

Evening lovely readers, just written this review up with a facemask on and my hair set in rollers (that’s an attractive image right?) because crazily I have a date tonight; yes a date! Bit odd, bit nerve wracking and new, but we’ll see how it goes, however it fits rather nicely with the book I am reviewing today. Anyway enough of my crazy personal life and onto the review; I received two books from Jacob M Appel and the reason I picked this one over the second book I will be reading is because of the stunning, yes stunning, front cover. See, I am a sucker for a beautiful cover and this one just looked perfect sitting in my handbag. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but I was very happily surprised. Sometimes when I am emailing an author I get a feeling in my head of what the book is going to be like. Sometimes I’m right sometimes I’m wrong and although I thought I would enjoy this book I wasn’t sure it would blow my mind. Step forward a week or two and I am eating a big fat slice of humble pie, because I was so incredibly wrong; enjoy!

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.

The novel, rather delightfully is set in a single day in the blusteringly beautiful New York City; we follow the life of Larry Bloom, a downtrodden, slightly depressed and lowly middle-aged tour guide. However, this is a special day for Larry Bloom as he is going on a date (see the connection) with the bizarre and eccentric Starshine Hart. Now, Larry knows that Starshine is the girl of his dreams, and due to this he has written a book, a compilation of events revolving around the day that he takes Starshine to dinner, and he has a letter from a publishing company but he can’t open it, not until he gets to see her. The story therefore takes part in three different sections; from a balmy morning to the bustling afternoon to the dark and heady evening and as we navigate through New York, Larry reads us sections of his book ‘The Biology of Luck,’ However, the day is not so perfect for Larry. Not only does he have a group of Dutch tourists to guide through the city, but an aggravating journalist Rita Blatt is rubbing him up the wrong way, there is a riot, a surprising death and the opportunity to be a hero. If Larry can make it through this day maybe just maybe it will all end perfectly.

I loved this book from start to finish, from the first page; I sat back in my seat on the train and breathed a silent sigh of relief. Sometimes you just know a book is going to be brilliant and you can savour the moment when you know you can write an absolutely outstanding review. I loved the way the book jumps from Larry’s narrative to real life, and although it took me some time to twig that this was what was happening it made for an interesting set-up that I haven’t experienced before. The style takes a surreal feel as it mixes and matches the differences between our lives in reality and the path we hope our lives will take. By doing this the main character, creates a book-within-a-book bringing in different unusual situations, personalities, hopes and dreams. It has a hazy dreamy like feel that made me fall completely in love with the writing style. The book investigates some deep and dark themes and underneath it all, is a rather lonely guy wanting to make his mark in a difficult and unstable world. This book provided some long needed content to contemplate about; I’ve spent the last few months, mulling over every day of every month, trying to pinpoint the second everything fell through and we became two separate entities without me even realising. It is astounding the innate self-absorption that we can create; I created a bubble around myself. I alienated friends, family, everything and yet the purpose it serves is only to make me confused and upset. Larry, does this in some ways with Starshine. He places her on a pedestal and he contemplates how perfect their lives could be if they were with each other. This book really made me ponder the emotions of love, lust, desire and pain, and how we perceive others. See, it is not only Starshine that Larry weaves into his book, but her apparent other suitors. Each play a part in the build up to the evening and it is these tiny miniscule scraps of information that Larry gathers from people that he weaves into an unnatural and exorbitant reality.

The characters are beautifully written; Starshine is pretty unlikeable, as she has an air of obsessive vanity. Once an ugly duckling, Starshine realises that she has grown into a beautiful swan and she taunts men at every corner. Larry is obsessive but in a warming way. Too often in modern culture we see relationships broken due to the lack of respect we have for each other, but here Larry is completely submerged in his adoration for Starshine. It warmed and disgusted me in equal measures, meaning I spent a couple of days after finishing this, only thinking about how I would write this review. Larry isn’t demeaning or disturbing but instead he evokes the feeling of hopelessness which is so incredibly well written. The men that saunter in and out of Starshines life like ships in the night, are rich and warm, and Starshine’s respect and adulation of each of them despite her need to love all three, makes her vulnerable, and you can see how the years of being ‘the duckling’ have tainted and faded her trust in relationships. The book is written around this mixing of relationships and the ways in which obsession, desire and love can affect the most cold hearted.

I’m going to have to stop myself here because I will just keep writing forever; this book has made me fall in love with reading all over again and I cannot wait to read the second book that Jacob has sent to me. Since the break-up reading has felt like a challenge; many books I am sent are about smiles, happiness and love, and yet this book brought me back to earth with a bump. Life is a challenge and to sit and wallow in life is beautiful and yet also soul destroying. I loved this book for its ‘real love’ and ‘real life’ feel that it evoked throughout. If you are looking for something authentic and genuine but will make you think and re-establish your own feelings this is definitely one for you. I cannot wait to read more from this author, if his next book is anything like this one, he will be becoming a firm favourite.

5 Comments

  1. August 20, 2014 / 7:59 pm

    I read The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up and thought it was fab and very clever

  2. August 20, 2014 / 8:00 pm

    Couldn’t help wondering whether you felt that there was any echo of Joyce’s Ulysses in the book. It’s just the name Bloom, the one day in June time frame, and . . . .
    One of my former professors once said to me, “You know it’s time to give up when you start underlining things in the newspaper”. Perhaps I’m over underlining. But I just wondered.

  3. August 21, 2014 / 7:01 am

    Really great review, hope the date was fun.

    • August 21, 2014 / 11:52 am

      thank you! the book was so good! 🙂 date was lovely!

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