Verdict: Jim Tilberry’s pun-fest, MONDAYS WITH MORTY, is a light, fun ride, but his hero could use more depth…and Morty could use a hearing aid!
In Mitch Albom’s bestselling memoir, Tuesdays With Morrie, a sports writer reconnects with his dying college professor, who teaches the writer a series of valuable life lessons. Jim Tilberry’s MONDAYS WITH MORTY: OFFBEAT LESSONS FOR SUCCESS is similar, except the hero, Walter Dill, is a clueless post-graduate loser, and his grandfather’s friend, Morty, is a shady former businessman with a hacking cough, a walker, and an unending lust for wine, women, and song (well, hard liquor, lap dances, and cigars, to be precise). Morty likes to gamble and swear, and manages to make both a night in jail and a trip to the ER fit into his unique worldview.
Tilberry’s work has an absurdist bent that fans of John Kenndy Toole may appreciate. MONDAYS WITH MORTY is a comedy of errors, rife with misdirection, groan-inducing puns, and clever wordplay. The gags lean toward amusing rather than laugh-out-loud; Dad jokes filtered through your dirty uncle. Much of the humor results from Morty’s—and/or the narrator’s—impaired hearing. Morty tries to teach Walter about the importance of “scheming,” but Walter mistakes it for the importance of “screaming,” which frightens away a park full of people, but pays an interesting dividend in the long run.
At other point, Morty tries to convince Walter, “Success is a journey, not a dusty nation.” Watching Morty come up with rationales for his strange notions is half the fun, like watching Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella pontificate on a misunderstood news topic, or listening to the adventures of bumbling John in the Frank Zappa song, “Dong Work for Yuda.” Actions speak louder than words, and the offbeat behavior of Morty and his octogenarian pals teaches Walter the most profound lesson in MONDAYS WITH MORTY.
“I began to realize that these old wise men were just teenage boys trapped in 85-year-old bodies.” This also holds true for not-so-wise men.
Walter Dill could use more depth and dimension beyond his role as Morty’s straight man. His naive reactions to Morty’s wacky wisdom are hard to believe, even from a shy college graduate…who majored in poetry! This short novel leaves the impression the narrator was amused—but ultimately unaffected—by his MONDAYS WITH MORTY. He’s no better off (or worse off) for having met Morty. Readers may feel the same.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader