here was a comedian named Jack Handey who used to write "Deep Thoughts" on Saturday Night Life in the 1990s. These were nonsense remarks disguised a philosophical ponderings, always quirky and often hilarious. One of Handey's musings was often repeated by one of my best friends, because we both found it so amusing:
“One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said, "Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried, but I think deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.”
I bring up the Jack Handey quote because I was amazed to see the same idea appear in Lawn Boy. But in Lawn Boy this little story isn't told as a joke, instead, the hero of the novel, Mike Muñoz, explains that when he was a little boy and begging his father to take him to Disneyland, his dad stopped his pestering by taking him to some burned out warehouses
in Tacoma. I guess this ancedote was supposed to make the reader feel sorry for Muñoz, but I was so distracted by the stolen idea that I instead found myself wondering what the author, Evison was doing. This link will take you to an excerpt of Lawn Boy that shows Evison's version of the Handey joke.
Was this some kind of homage to Jack Handey? How many of the other scenes in Lawn Boy were stolen ideas from the ideas of others?
Evison does a good job at creating characters, but unfortunately the characters he chooses to create are mostly unlikable. My favorite person in the novel was Remy, Mike Muñoz's wanna-be girlfriend. But alas, Muñoz treats her badly and things don't end well for Remy
Instead of Remy, Muñoz decides he is gay and falls for Andrew a rich, pretentious activist who is always leading protests that everyone ignores. Even if Muñoz has decided he likes guys rather than gals, it is hard to see anything attractive in Andrew.
Muñoz's best friend is Nick, a homophobic, foul-mouth guy who can always be relied on to contribute a cutting remark or a putdown. But when Muñoz announces that he is gay, Nick becomes an accepting friend, as if those fag comments were never uttered. It seemed highly unlikely outcome to me. But when Muñoz announces he is gay,
it seems that suddenly everything goes right for him. He is given a job as a front man for a lawn mowing company. The weird guy that plays bass guitar while watching porn video suddenly has thousands of dollars to loan Muñoz so he can buy a new truck. Everybody gets together for Thanksgiving dinner and has a grand time.
Muñoz's tale is supposed to be a portrait of a life in poverty. We see how badly he is treated by his bosses, how poorly he is paid, how his lack of resources conspires against him so that any bump in the road, such as his truck needing a repair, becomes an insurmountable obstacle. But even
when things go right for Muñoz, his behavior is puzzling. Get a little cash? Promptly lose everything gambling at a casino. Have a windfall? Blow it all at a giant garage sale, buying items he doesn't need.
Lawn Boy is a character driven novel, there isn't really a plot here. The novel relates a series of events in the life of Mike Muñoz, but the trouble is, none of the characters are actually likable (other than the jilted Remy). The book is a quick read, and it was interesting enough that I read all the way to the
end, but I wouldn't recommend to anyone else.