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My Year as a Clown

By Robert Steven Williams

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IR Rating:
4.0
Realism, humor and insight are mostly the order of the day in My Year as a Clown: a fairly complex novel whose epilogue drives home the notion that, while Chuck's life may have some things that go well, it does not have a Hollywood-type happy ending.

 

Robert Steven Williams’ My Year as a Clown begins at the beginning of narrator Chuck Morgan’s annus horribilis, with his archaeologist wife leaving him for someone she met on a dig.

The first few chapters cover with nearly as much detail, and almost as much lament, as the failure of Chuck’s beloved Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs. The book goes on to make a few things very clear: Chuck is unemployed and down on his luck, he loves his two cats, he loves football, his marriage was never that good in the first place, and his prospects for dating are also rather dim.

But date Chuck eventually does, and here he encounters some joy, but mostly more folly and sorrow. And along the way there are also a number of fascinating subplots: in addition to the Philadelphia Eagles, there’s also a sociopathic singing rabbi, Chuck’s progress on his novel, and a neighbor whose marriage is also not going very well.

My Year as a Clown, as its title suggests, presents Chuck as a schlub (albeit one keenly aware of his own schlubbiness and constantly commenting on it), but the story never suggests the reader laugh at his expense. For instance, Chuck takes up yoga and meditation solely in hopes of scoring with a cute yoga instructor. But the meditation makes him a better person and a better writer, and the yoga causes him to lose a few pounds, to the point where he expresses disdain for his brother for also joining his yoga class to leer at the same instructor.

Chuck grows as a person, but it never feels too forced or too obvious, and the novel never really becomes didactic. And while Chuck matures as a character, he grows in a mostly believable fashion, never really becoming angelic or perfect. For instance, he comments one woman: “The frat-boy side of me still wanted jump her bones, and I sensed a move on my part wouldn’t have been rejected, but I didn’t go there.” [263] 

Realism, humor and insight are mostly the order of the day in My Year as a Clown: a fairly complex novel whose epilogue drives home the notion that, while Chuck’s life may have some things that go well, it does not have a Hollywood-type happy ending.

Reviewed by Charles Baker for IndieReader

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