Book Review

The Great Kisser by David Evanier (Rager Media, 2006)

David Evanier (one of my closest friends) has been a writer all his life? He is the author of The One Star Jew, Red Love (a novelization of the life and times of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg) and dozens of stories, reviews and essays published in leading literary journals. He has also written for New York Magazine, The Village Voice, and The New York Times Magazine.
In addition to his literary work, David has also written several wonderful biographies, most prominent among them: Making The Wise Guys Weep?The Jimmy Roselli Story, and Roman Candle, The Life of Bobby Darin.

David calls The Great Kisser, a ?novel in stories?. And it is more or less just that. It?s a collection of short and long stories, which don?t always proceed in particularly chronological order but follow a different sort of time line?the time line of the heart.
This book is really a memoir, with only a few changes of name, place and date. It?s at once the story of a boy, then a man, searching desperately for the kind of genuine love he never got as a child, and also the story of a born artist, a writer; someone, who no matter what other jobs or careers he ever attempted was never meant to be anything but a writer.
The stories move back and forth in time and place?but cover everything from his childhood in the forties and fifties up to the present moment? They travel from Queens to Manhattan, to Vancouver, back to Manhattan, out to Los Angeles (for a long, hard attempt at screenwriting) and finally back to New York.

The book is full of bizarre and fascinating characters; geniuses and charlatans; real and would-be gangsters; cracked literary agents, bigoted, hysterical do-gooders and a large assemblage of lost, crazy and inspired artists that Michael Goldberg (David?s novelized namesake) meets on his journeys.
Of all the sad, brilliant and hilarious characters Michael encounters in his travels, by far the most fascinating is his long-time psychiatrist who, in his deranged old age, gives Michael decades of their taped therapy sessions. In fact, that?s the way the book starts?with Michael beginning to listen to these thousand-and-one nights of analysis and personal revelation.

David/Michael, in this life story, writes with a kind of vicious, longing honesty about his horribly needy and destructive parents.
Not unlike a great many other people in this sad, spinning world, he spends the better part of his life trying to free himself from the chains of his parents? terrible love?it?s an omnipresent plot, sub-plot and super-plot throughout the book?

Michael falls in love, in lust, chases after numerous women, engages in doomed affairs and, when teaching in Vancouver, meets the woman he will one day marry. Their long, troubled and passionate relationship is, in fact, what finally carries the torch of redemption to the finish line of the book.

The Great Kisser is compulsively readable. David/Michael?s desperation leaps right from his heart to yours and you often find yourself saying, ?I can?t take this stuff any more? But still, I have to know what happens next.? There is always a feeling of compassion you have for this character. You find yourself, no matter how much he screws up or lurches around in a selfish frenzy, rooting for him to succeed, both in his attempts to make it as a writer and finally discover true love. His greatest virtue is that no matter what disasters befall him, he never, never stops trying.

The Great Kisser, by David Evanier, published by Rager Media?available on Amazon, etc. etc.

– Mike Feder (New York City – December 15, 2006)

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