“The Funny Man” by John Warner

John Warner is a writer for The Morning News and one of the color commentators of its literary twist on March Madness, the Tournament of Books. In that role he started one of my favorite internet events, the Biblioracle (most recent session here), where you send in the last 5 books you read and enjoyed and he’ll recommend the next one. I’ve really enjoyed the recommendations I’ve gotten thus far: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, What Was She Thinking? by Zoe Heller, and The Thousand by Kevin Guilfoile. I’m currently reading his most recent recommendation for me, The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.

In the most recent round of the Biblioracle, he politely requested that those who appreciated the event buy a book from an indie bookstore, then pass it on to someone who wasn’t an indie bookstore shopper. I bought his first novel, The Funny Man at Magers and Quinn, and did just that.

It’s a dark satire of celebrity culture told in alternating chapters with The Funny Man of the title rising to fame in the past while on trial for murder in the present. The second half of the book details his fall from grace and the ostensible recovering of his faculties at a covert rehab called the White Hot Center. It’s a challenging structure to have attempted, yet it works, and ends provocatively. I was thoroughly engaged throughout, and had a complicated mix of feelings for The Funny Man of sympathy and outraged disgust. As dark and satiric as it is, it’s not for everyone, but if you’re up for an enjoyable challenge that makes you think, laugh and cringe, I do recommend it.

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