Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2001 (ISBN 0374172587)
Be warned, reading Chuck Kinder's new novel is like walking barefoot over a field of broken glass then looking back to see those painful shards were really diamonds. Honeymooners follows the rise from obscurity of two writers, Ralph Crawford and Jim Stark, depicting their decadent lifestyles, their string of bad relationships and marriages, their physical, psychological, and legal troubles, and everything else that looks better to the characters in their prose than in their lives.
Of course, using the term "story" to describe Honeymooners may be a bit of a stretch. Hardly anything resembling a plot ever enters this book, and when it does it disappears into a back alley like one of Kinder's drunks on another jag. Instead, what the reader glimpses in this novel can best be described as scenes from life. And not just any life, mind you. Van Gogh lives. Sylvia Plath lives. Tormented artist lives. The scenes from those lives are the same brutal, ugly events that turn into the most beautiful works of art. That Kinder captures this so well is what makes Honeymooners a journey worth taking.
Kinder's writing also keeps the reader reading. I know I was hooked from the final paragraph of the first sub-chapter:
"He might even make the wife in the story sleep with both those
bareback strangers, if that would make things more interesting. And
maybe the husband in the story would betray the wife, too, in order
to stir even more trouble into the plot. Even if the husband, too,
didn't want to do it. He might have to, for the sake of the story."
Kinder writes with an eloquence that sometimes seems to contradict crudeness of the characters. While the characters and story feel more like Kerouac or Hunter Thompson, the prose is much more Hemingway. Quite a combination. The mix works well enough to pull readers through the book and to leave them feeling satisfied after the final page.