Friday, December 11, 2009

Top 60 Novels of 2000-2009 Countdown, No. 20

The Shroud of the Thwacker and Into Hot Air by Chris Elliott

I've been a fan of Chris Elliott since he had the run-in with the vacuum cleaner on "Late Night With David Letterman." I also was a fan of his dad, Bob Elliott, who was part of the comedy team of Bob and Ray. So I was intrigued when I discovered Elliott had become a novelist -- and one  in which, like Mark Leyner (when is Leyner going to write another novel?) Elliott himself is the protagonist. So I read "Shroud" in 2005, and I found it both hilarious and a wild excursion into metafiction, with Elliott spoofing such books as "The Alienist" and "Time and Again" along with Theodore Roosevelt and Yoko Ono. (Imagine getting those two into a sentence.) His follow-up novel, "Into Hot Air," spoofs the spurt of Everest-climber books as well as Martin Sheen and Betty Bacall; it came out in 2008, and it was one of my favorites that year, too. Also, I bet his novels show up on no one else's best-of lists for the decade. His fatuous narrative voice is completely his own and would be familiar to anyone who enjoys his comic performances in "Get a Life" or other sitcoms; and his plots take on a level of absurity as he continually interrupts the action to fix his plots, much as Daffy Duck interacts with the animator in "Duck Amuck." As I stated earlier, I have a proclivity toward funny books, and these two are among the funniest I've read.  

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