Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: The Funny Man

John Warner’s debut fiction novel was released on September 6th this year from Soho Press. The Funny Man is the tale of a comedian who rises to fame thanks to a gimmick act and experiences a number of ups and downs that ultimately culminates with him being on trial for murder. Through this framework, Warner examines the whole nature of celebrity in a rather dark, satirical way.

I have to admit that I might have not been the right audience for this story. It certainly was not what I was expecting when I read a description of the book.

The story is broken into two parts: the present day told in a first person narrative and dealing with the trial, and the past via flashbacks told in a third person narrative and outlining the rise and fall of the comedian’s career. This is done very systematically, alternating chapter by chapter in each mode. It does take a bit of getting used to but, eventually, I felt comfortable with it.

I think my biggest hurdle with the book is that the protagonist of the book is never named. He is always referred to as “the funny man”, in lower case. I get that this is likely done to avoid associating him with any other actual comic, but for me it makes the character distant and hard to connect to. And since I couldn’t connect to him, I really didn’t feel much towards him - neither an affinity nor sympathy.

My suggestion would be to give the Funny Man a try before you buy. See if you can find it in your local library or read an excerpt from it first.

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