Do they play backgammon at the Belle Meade Country Club?
[[nid:2969]] Bruno Alexander is a backgammon hustler in Europe’s elite clubs. His luck goes south when he can no longer deny he has a giant tumor growing behind his face. Once dapper and jet-setting, Alexander is reduced to wearing a Michael Myers mask while flipping burgers at a dirty spoon in his stateside hometown. Making things worse, he’s beholden to Keith Stolarsky, a high school acquaintance turned crass millionaire who paid the bill for his facial surgery.
I’ve always imagined Michael Chabon to be Jonathan Lethem’s Keith Stolarsky. They came up around the same time. They’ve both written about Berkeley / Oakland. They kind of look the same. The analogy falls apart though because Lethem isn't beholden to Chabon for anything. Gambler’s Anatomy is a tragicomedic doubling cube. Lethem keeps raising the stakes and the reader gets the pay out. Not so much for Bruno Alexander. It’s a return to form for Lethem after the stylistically dazzling but emotionally dismal Dissident Gardens. Don’t be put off by the absurd premise. Much like Lethem’s masterful Chronic City, the lead character can be alienating at first, but behind the, um, mask, there is a payload of human heart.