Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review: "Losing in Gainesville" by Brian Costello

Reading a book like Brian Costello’s Losing in Gainesville makes you glad you live right now and not during the 90’s. This not very original, sometimes clever, way too long novel about a group of, as you can guess from the title. Losers making music in the southern state is the kind of experimental out of control novel that I would have liked when I was in high school. But I have grown up, and so have my taste, and I found a majority of this book painfully goofy, overstuffed with weirdness until it feels very inauthentic and just plain bad in some parts. I feel bad saying this, because I can tell just from the writing of it, and the timeframe in which it was written, that this book is a labor of love. It focuses on the exploits of Ronnie Altamont, who, in the book’s opening pages is riffling through a dumpster when his friend bites into a granola bar covered in fire ants. It’s a scene that sets the standard this book pushes throughout its stretched 500-page length. Ronnie is a college dropout, voluntarily living on the fringes in Gainesville, trying to write a book and immersing himself in the local punk rock scene with bands like The Laraflynnboyles. One of the few things I enjoyed in this book was its sense of humor, like the many goofy band names and some of Ronnie’s loser friends, like Alvin, who has two assholes and an encyclopedic porn collection, as well as a few sly literary references. But this book’s emotional weight is lacking because the quirkiness stacks up to ridiculous heights, to the point where the actions and people just seemed phony to me. I give Costello credit for writing a novel completely unlike anything else, but that doesn’t make it a good book.

Rating: 2/5

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