Review: The Organ Grinder and the Monkey
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Posted: Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Author: Sam Moffie
Sam Moffie's second novel, The Organ Grinder and the Monkey is a wickedly, astute, animated tale infused with sharp, clever takes on contemporary society which are expressed through the perceptions of three zany characters. Each fashion their own radically different resolutions to life's multitude of struggles and challenges particularly when it comes to the not so fortunate of our society.Our story unfolds as we are introduced to the first of the characters, Seymour Petrillo, whose therapist has written a best-selling book about him concerning murders he had committed. Apparently, the book makes a big deal of the fact that Seymour comes from Steubenville, Ohio and it presents this fact as a perfect analogy for Seymour's personal decay, in addition to being a manifesto on split personalities. It should be mentioned that Steubenville was also the birth- place of Dean Martin and as a result, Seymour's father, Anthony, suffered from Dean Martin mania. He always focused on Steubenville only as it related to Dean Martin.
Seymour's father was gay and also a scoundrel resulting in the break-up of his parent's marriage. As a result, Seymour had a very close relationship with his grandfather and would often take walks with him around the town taking note of his many tales pertaining to the town and its inhabitants. Seymour never looked forward to spending weekends with his father as his father's friends bothered him, and during one of these visits, he witnessed something that was to have a long lasting repercussion on his sanity.
After leaving Steubenville, Seymour acquires a college education and winds up in New York where he meets up with a kind woman, Mrs. Brumagin, who takes him in as her border and is also instrumental in his gaining employment in an animal shelter. His ultimate goal was to become a vetranerian.
Our second oddball, Irving Hanhart comes from Brookline, Massachusetts, who has aspirations of becoming a New York cop. Irving had found spirituality in the philosophy of Al-Anon and according to him the solution to life's problems could be found in its teachings. Moreover, he always felt that there was some kind of conspiracy that prevented us from succeeding in life such as the fact that all tests were a conspiracy, and that they didn't gauge people's true smarts.
Irving's parents owned a bookstore called Moishe Pipecks, which translates from Yiddish as Moses' bellybutton. The bookstore was the gathering point for all radicals in the greater Boston area who believed that any revolution was a good revolution. As Irving came from a mixed marriage, his mother being Jewish and his father Irish, he would be the butt of a variety of jokes pertaining to his meals at home such as a bagel and some whiskey, his clothing, a yarmulke and knickers or his home would be a tent connected to a cottage.
In reply to his wife's query as to why he never had a bar-mitzvah, Irving would say that "According to Jewish law, because my mother was Jewish, my brother and I could have had a bar mitzvah. But that was too religious and too materialistic for my family, so we took turns reading from The Other America: Poverty in the United States."
Constance Powers is our third screwy character and she comes from Boardman, Ohio. Her solution to any problem was that no matter what it is "it deserves an enema from the Almighty." She is introduced to us as follows: "If Constance Powers were a shark, she would have been a Great White Shark. But like a Great White Shark, Constance was very choosy about what and whom she devoured." However, she did have the looks, brains and personality that made her very attractive to the opposite sex.
Constance was born into what used to be one of the wealthiest families in Boardman, however, she never experienced the actual humongous bank accounts, trust funds and lines of credit that accompany the country's wealthiest families. As she states, "our money got eaten up by a lot of isms."
Her ambition was to live in New York and become a dancer with the famous Rockettes. She does eventually wind up in New York; however, she first must pay her dues as the main dancing act in a strip joint-something she had not exactly anticipated before she reached the Promised Land. Constance also managed to secure a few acting roles in off Broadway productions.
Much of Moffie's raw and stabbing humor is regrettably accurate even though he does have a tendency to overwrite. I felt the tale would have been more entertaining if it was shorter by at least seventy-five pages with more focus and a larger print. Nonetheless, Moffie cleverly leads us through the inns and outs of modern day experiences and agendas taking us on a few sneering spins as he comments on such themes as relationships, raising kids, psychotherapy, politics, sex, publishing, rehab programs, romance, rocky marriages and many more issues of the day. In brief, the novel is very intelligent and certainly searching with a big comedic vein running through it with some very lively dialogue thrown in. Definitely, Moffie has a refreshingly distinctive voice and is an author to watch.
Click Here to Read Norm's Interview With Sam Moffie
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