Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Everybody Says Hello by Michael Kun

Occasionally, there are characters in books that I like so much or find so compelling, I wish the author would revisit them.  However, even for the authors who created the character from their own minds, hearts and experience, that is often too tall an order, the result unsatisfying or forced.  Updike was successful with Rabbit Angstrom as was Roddy Doyle with Paula Spencer.  I'm happy to say Michael Kun succeeds in catching us up with Sid Straw in his latest novel, Everybody Says Hello.  

We were first introduced to him almost ten years ago in The Locklear Letters and now we are afforded the opportunity to see how he has fared since.  This time, we meet up with Sid as he's heading from his beloved Baltimore and a broken relationship to start over on the West Coast in a new position at a computer company.  

Like its predecessor, Everybody Says Hello is an epistolary novel and Sid is a letter-writing dynamo.  (I especially loved the postcards he sends his young nephew that draw his sisters' ire.)  Unlike most epistolary novels, there is no correspondence; every letter is 'From the Desk of Sid Straw' and with every letter, nothing goes as planned. In his well-meaning zeal, each letter he writes makes a little mess turn into a bigger one and from there, well, the police are called, disputes arise with questionable hotel managers and his new life suddenly begins to unravel before it starts. 
Despite the fact that his biggest problem is that he just can't get out of his own way, Sid is a likable, kindhearted guy.  He is a pleaser, a romantic, and something of a nebbish.  If Leo Durocher's maxim was correct, Sid Straw, the epitome of 'nice guys', not only finishes last but he's also been guilted into sweeping up the joint, doing the dishes and cleaning the ashtrays.   Among his writing talents, Kun makes you feel like you know Sid.  He's your nutty uncle or your old roommate and he drives you a little crazy but he means well and he's always been SO good to you and in a pinch, he'd do anything for you.  Other writers might have foregone that sense of humanity for laughs but Kun succeeds in telling all sides of Sid's exploits in a clean, concise way without sacrificing anything.  Best of all, Michael Kun is damned funny; in my mind, he's one of the funniest novelists writing today.  

Though letter-writing has gone the way of the dodo,sadly, I would be curious to see how Sid is doing ten years from now.  Michael Kun, are you listening?

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