I admit I wan’t paying attention when I started this book. I assumed it was a novel and became drawn in right away by the character Tom in “Seeing Stars.” He’s an aspiring filmmaker who earns his bread working for a shipping company. He’s also probably the sorriest womanizer in recorded history. While fantasizing about his dream woman, he gets himself entangled with someone else. It’s a disaster. He knows it from the first moment, but away he goes. Then he gets a shot at fulfilling his romantic fantasy and things really get crazy. Poor Tom, the lovable jerk, is lucky to get out in one piece.
Author Peter Davey has a gift for creating characters who are so endearing and ridiculous that you don’t know whether you want to hug them or smack them upside the head. Take Beth In “Mike and Beth–A Modern Romance.” She’s a clerk in a grocery store who begins a romance with her sweet (if a little dim) co-worker. All is on course for this delightfully ordinary couple to end up reasonably happy ever after, until she starts reading the psychology rags in the store’s magazine section. Beth’s plan for self-actualization is as tragic as it is hilarious.
Of all Davey’s wounded creations, my favorite has to be Jeb Steam, who stars in the seven linked stories that make up the second half of the collection. Jeb’s an as-yet-unpublished writer determined to redefine the novel for all time. In the meantime, he holds a menial job and tries, mostly unsuccessfully, to have a romance with his housemate. Abby claims to not be interested in him, but, as is usual for a Peter Davey character, her true feelings aren’t quite so easy to ascertain, especially for Abby herself.
“Thank You For Flying Fuckair” is my favorite of the Jeb stories. He allows himself to be talked into a vacation he can’t afford and that even he knows is not going to be anything approaching fun in the sun. Indeed, it’s a mess from beginning to end. And yet, somehow, it’s also the closest Jeb Steam will likely ever get to complete and utter happiness. This is Davey’s gift, I think. He builds these complex simpletons and places them in extreme situations–basically setting them up for failure. But it’s a failure that is so human and beautiful we can’t help but be moved.
I loved LOVED AND LOST IN LEWISHAM and am eagerly awaiting Peter Davey’s next book.