Pete Dexter began his working life with a U.S. Post Office in New Orleans, La. He wasn't very good at mail and quit, then caught on as a newspaper reporter in Florida, which he was not very good at, then he got married, and was not very good at that. In Philadelphia he became a newspaper columnist, which he was pretty good at, and he got divorced, which you would have to say he was good at because it only cost $300. Dexter remarried, won the National Book Award, and built a house in the desert so remote that there is no postal service. He's out there six months a year, pecking away at the typewriter, living proof of the adage "what goes around comes around"--that is, you quit the post office, pal, and the post office quits you.Additionally, Dexter has written a piquant, rollicking story, bulging with his trademark droll humor. Here's my favorite all-time Dexter passage, from his L.A. nourish opus Train:
He runs the Cassidy crime family. Little people with enormous heads, every one of them. And they've all been shot in the head, and they never die. They believe it's all the luck of the Irish--they walk around thinking they were all born lucky--it never occurred to any of them yet of they were that fucking lucky, they wouldn't keep getting shot.Reportedly mirroring his own life, Dexter was years late delivering this 500-page mini-epic--confounded by having to trim down the manuscript. (The N.Y.T.B.R., replicating the author's note from the Advance Reader's Edition details his plight.)
Back in 1991, Dexter explained to me how he began his career in fiction. Writing well-regarded human interest columns for the Philadelphia Inquirer, he also shared the newspaperman's avocation of whiling away hours in barrooms. Apparently some of his readers took exception to a particular column and he was savagely beaten. During his recovery, he found that when he attempted to drink alcoholic beverages, he didn't like the taste. So, a time-consuming pastime no longer being available to him, and finding himself with many hours on his hands, he addressed himself to writing novels. Voila!
From the get-go of Spooner (Grand Central), Warren Spooner's life is notable, his perennially asthmatic mother's lengthy labor, the death of his "better looking" twin, his father's early death, and a very early interest in peculiar acts of criminality (urinating in neighbors' shoes?). His stepfather, a cashiered Naval officer, embarks on an endless intervention to triage Spooner's persistent running off the tracks. All of which makes for a memorable and incessantly funny tale.
By the way, Dexter's acknowledgments, a practice he has only recently taken up, are as equally hilarious as the rest of the pages in this book. A Reader's Advisory recommending diapers accompany reading this book may be necessary as the potent merriment found in these pages may cause fits of incontinence.