My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Happy Man reminded me a lot of my dreams: vivid, lucid, unbelievably real, except that my dreams don’t usually involve being raped. The story involves a main character who’s soul will randomly be transported back into Hell, not necessarily real Hell, but certainly Hell for him. While his soul is in Hell, his body continues it’s day to day comings and goings it’s just that he shows almost no emotion. Most people don’t even notice, except his family where it is a painfully obvious reality that they must live with. His Hell is very interesting. It reminds me a lot of a video game where you have to move through different stages. For example, Hell always starts with him sitting at a picnic table with other children waiting for breakfast to be served in front of the Witch’s house. Also, he is always 8 years old in Hell. However, the breakfast never comes and each visit to Hell starts the same way and time doesn’t start until he gets up from the table. Then like clockwork he moves through various “levels” including a forest, a field, the Robot Maker, the garden of razor blades, a ghost town, and inevitably Colonel Eagerly aka “The Happy Man” who is unfortunately his only ticket home. He cannot leave Hell until he meets The Happy Man. Time doesn’t seem to continue until he makes it to the next stage, and each time it is the same, but the faster he reaches The Happy Man, the faster he gets to return to his body and family on Earth. However, meeting The Happy Man totally sucks (insert brutal raping scene). I really enjoyed the author’s descriptions of Hell (sans raping parts) because the scenery really reminded me of some dreams that I have where time seems to be stopped and everything around me seems real and fake at the same time. I would have given the story 5 stars except for the repeated sexual assaults. So I would have given it 4 stars because I thought it was very cleverly written and 100% engaging, but I thought the ending was weak-sauce so I gave it 3 stars. It ended in a tragically obvious fashion consistent with the build-up of the story yet with little depth or resolution. A totally crappy let-down of a finish. Do I recommend reading it? Maybe. Perhaps you should just read my dream blog instead and avoid all of the raping scenes sprinkled throughout The Happy Man. http://theyoungurbanunprofessional.com/f…
About the Author Jonathan Lethem:
Jonathan Lethem was born in New York and attended Bennington College.
He is the author of seven novels including Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which was named Novel of the Year by Esquire and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Salon Book Award, as well as the Macallan Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger.
He has also written two short story collections, a novella and a collection of essays, edited The Vintage Book of Amnesia, guest-edited The Year’s Best Music Writing 2002, and was the founding fiction editor of Fence magazine.
His writings have appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, McSweeney’s and many other periodicals.
He lives in Brooklyn, New York. (Courtesy of Amazon.com)