Woven through endless descriptions of vomit, urine, more vomit, and a persistent sexism that sometimes veers over the border into outright misogyny is an artfully plotted tale of friendship among people who have been unable to move past the failures of their high school selves.
The story takes place entirely in the men’s room at a ten-year high school reunion, assisted by multiple flashbacks to senior year when everything went wrong. The action centers on three men who have been stalled ever since. Todd and Brent are the id and superego of the group, respectively: the former was a high school bruiser who solved problems with his fists, and has yet to develop a more adaptive skill set; Brent was a golden boy who tarnished. Rory is the emotion of the trio. He is terrified of, well, most things, but especially women. In some ways he is the most stalled of the group, since he spends much of his time sitting on or crouching over the toilet. As the evening progresses, bygone traumas are exhumed, mysteries solved, and blame is assigned its proper place. Mostly.
These men failed in the past, and in the present their lives are bleak and blasted. Invariably women are to blame—women and sex, which here are synonymous. Throughout the book, women and girls are described as a series of sexualized body parts and little else. Todd’s wife Stacy is an expansion on this theme: her existence is defined by a toxic sexuality that she wields against every man she ever knew. She is a liar, a serial cheat, a blackmailer, and a horny drunk. She has no personality and no life beyond sex. Since the book is told from the point of view of a group of men who are clearly in the grip of arrested development, it is unclear whether this is their view of women, or the author’s.
STALLED, with its raw and authentic dialogue, credible characters and their compelling interwoven stories is definitely worth a look.