Frontier Psychiatrist

Good Bad Book: A Review of Adam Levin, Hot Pink

Posted on: June 21, 2012

Adam Levin, Hot Pink

A recent New Yorker article about good bad books asks why anyone would choose to read pulp instead over something  intellectually stimulating (the illustration shows a man hiding a Stephen King novel inside the cover of War and Peace). The article makes a valid point. You don’t want to read Shakespeare all the time, and if you do, you’re probably a very boring person (consider how watching nothing but Godard films could become tiresome; you need a Farrelly Brothers every now and again). So while ‘genre novels’ may be considered formulaic and sometimes cheesy, they can be good for an overstimulated mind to take a break. What the article doesn’t consider, however, is the middle-ground. Here’s where Adam Levin’s short story collection comes into play.

On the surface, Hot Pink is ten stories of various lengths, often dealing with an absurd premise that has no moral or logical conclusion. Initially, it may seem that this book is even outside of the realm of the two poles, pulp and intellectual. But as you read these stories, you begin to recognize two common themes: the occasional bouts of familiarity in these absurd worlds and entertaining, often laugh out loud storylines. Take for instance the first story, about a man designing a Barbie-like doll that is supposed to have a working reproductive and gastrointestinal system to teach young girls that it’s OK to eat and poop. The designer is a husband and father who is on always on the verge of the final product. He takes his family for rides down the Lake Shore from Chicago’s suburbs to downtown, picking out which building they’ll move into when they become millionaires. The story that starts out optimistic and simply enough, eventually dissolves into a perfect storm of repeated rejection by his company and the entirely unselfconscious, self-mutilation of one of his kids.  Although the story initially seems plausible enough to have some basis in reality, the consequence-less world Levin creates contains comical imagery. Or consider the paraplegic lesbian who’s skipped ahead from high school to (presumably) the University of Chicago to hit on the insanely out of her league hottie who wears snowpants year round (“Considering the Bittersweet End of Susan Falls”). From the title, you know it can’t end well, but her insane optimism and willingness to take a chance draws in the reader.

The most fascinating thing about the collection is the absurd impulses that nearly every character acts on and those dark spots, that if given enough free time, our minds will inevitably wander into. For instance, if I just stopped writing this review, stood up in the middle of this Wicker Park cafe and started tenderly masturbating, before being asked if I ordered the bacon turkey Panini by a waiter. At which point I would conceal my member and continue writing this review. Did I just do that? Of course not. Am I even at a café right now? Nope. But Levin’s imagination legitimizes the collective imagination, taking the most surreal of mental imagery to their illogical conclusions.

Chicago readers will get an added bonus, with not only many references to the city and suburbs, but a few riffs on our former mayor, the second Daley (or rather, those who supported and opposed him). And while some stories offer insight into fascinating characters, some just offer great punchlines. There are the four older gentlemen, playing cards, discussing going “the extra mile” when it came to their wives in the bedroom; the even shorter stories grouped together under the title “Relating” which seems to be Levin’s trying out different equipment in the playground of language; and the inhalant-sucking, obese Italian teenager who learns the difference between proper usage of racial slurs. This book most certainly garners a NSFW rating, not only for its sexual and violent content (and sometimes both simultaneously) but for the fact that it will have you laughing out loud at times, a sincerely fantastic distraction from the real world around us. If nothing else, you’ll learn the long-term advantages of brushing and flossing your teeth.

Andrew Hertzberg is a Chicago music writer for Windy City Rock, a deep dish pizza slinger, and a night-time bike riding enthusiast. His recent FP book reviews include The Man Within My Head Open City, and The Map and the Territory.

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6 Responses to "Good Bad Book: A Review of Adam Levin, Hot Pink"

[…] and a regular Frontier Psychiatrist contributor. Recent reviews include Adam Levin’s Hot Pink, Pico Iyer’s The Man Within My Head, and Teju Cole’s Open […]

[…] books for Frontier Psychiatrist, most recently In My Home There Is No Sorrow by Rick Bass and Hot Pink by Adam Levin. Keep an eye on upchicago.com for more of his full band Lollapalooza coverage. Share […]

[…] advertisements at Lollapalooza 2012 and  the books In My Home There Is No Sorrow by Rick Bass and Hot Pink by Adam Levin. Share this:ShareEmailTwitterFacebookRedditStumbleUponYahoo BuzzDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to […]

[…] include A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, In My Home There Is No Sorrow by Rick Bass and Hot Pink by Adam Levin. Although he lives in Chicago, his fall travel agenda includes New York, Israel, and China. Share […]

[…] Morrison,A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, In My Home There Is No Sorrow by Rick Bass and Hot Pink by Adam Levin. Although he lives in Chicago, his fall travel agenda includes New York, Israel, and […]

[…] Morrison,A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, In My Home There Is No Sorrow by Rick Bass and Hot Pink by Adam Levin. Although he lives in Chicago, his fall travel agenda includes New York, Israel, and China. Share […]

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