Monday, June 8, 2009

Debut Review: Going Down by Jennifer Belle

General Fiction
Riverhead Trade (July 1, 1996)
272 pages

From Powell's:
With a sharp eye for satire and a keen comic sense, Belle chronicles the adventures of nineteen-year-old Bennington Bloom as she wanders between the upscale brothels of New York City and the unsuspecting arms of her new boyfriend. With a father who loves his dog like a daughter, a shrink who is hard of hearing, an ulcer, and tuition (paid in cash) to worry about, Bennington is working overtime to keep it all together. Whether spending the night in an abandoned hotel pool or punching pushy old women on the subway, Bennington is doing what she can to survive - starting at an all-time low, only to find herself going down from there.
One of my favorite things to do in my downtime is to peruse the shelves of my friends on Goodreads. That's how I made the decision to order this one off of Bookmooch. Most of the books that I mooch are titles that I'm not convinced that I want to spend the cash on. Thanks to the mixed reviews that I read online - Going Down fell into that category.

After the first few pages, it became apparent why there were so many varying reviews. This story is very polarizing - you either love it or hate it. Belle's style of writing has a lot to do with that. While the first-person narrative is not quite in the stream-of-consciousness style, it does give the reader the feeling of being in the head of someone with ADD.

It's like Holden Caulfield got a sex change and was transplanted in the 90s as Bennington Bloom. Imagine a love child between Woody Allen and J.D. Salinger and you get Jennifer Belle. If you're looking for a plot driven story, this isn't it. I can't pinpoint what exactly kept me reading. Whether it was the ramblings of the protagonist or the raw, dirty portrayal of life in New York, I can't say. Whatever it was, I was pretty captivated by the randomness and dark humor of the novel.

Grade: B+