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Let Nothing You Dismay

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In his brilliant new novel, the first since the widely enjoyed Getting Over Homer, Mark
O'Donnell takes us on a wild and funny tour through the Christmas season's ultimate challenge: the day of too many parties.

It's Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve in Manhattan--five days from the holiday Ground Zero--but Tad Leary, the most confused man on earth, doesn't know whether to celebrate or go crazy. He's just been fired, he's about to be evicted from his sublet, he's getting nowhere on his overdue folklore thesis, "Social Hierarchies of Imaginary Places," and on top of everything else--or rather underneath everything else--at age thirty-four (older than Christ), he's five-foot-one and still baby-faced, so he's treated like a child wherever he goes. Nonetheless, he's been invited to seven (a magic number one of his rivals is writing a thesis about) different Christmas parties that day, and he decides to explore every one of them for possible work, apartments, love, and just plain distraction.

Tad's a walking punch bowl of joy and fear, goodwill and alienation, running a constant mental argument with himself throughout his long marathon. By midnight, he will have visited all parts of his past--from brunch with his rumpled Boston Irish parents and arguably more successful brothers, to dinner with his beautiful Swedish ex-girlfriend, to a fancy, colossal uptown bash where, by now dangerously looped, he bumps into an ex-boyfriend (more confusion!) looking as "glorious and golden as a roast turkey."

A farcical, over-the-top feast of twisted one-liners and outrageous imagery, Let Nothing You Dismay depicts Tad's--and everyone's--struggle for survival, with a bracing combination of Darwinian theory and hallucinatory fairy-tale wonder. It's a Chekhov story told with P. G. Wodehouse flippancy, or a tale of Celtic mysticism as S. J. Perelman might have rendered it. Above all, the bright spots in this darkest night of the soul prove that comical epiphany isn't just for Christmas anymore.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Sep 28, 1998 – With only five days to go before Christmas, several doses of bad luck have befallen Tad Leary, the hero of this funny, if thin, second novel by playwright and humorist O'Donnell (Getting Over Homer). Tad has been without a steady lover since he broke up with his boyfriend a year ago. Now, he has just been fired from his job as a storyteller at an exclusive Manhattan elementary school. Moreover, the actor from whom Tad sublets his West Side apartment wants it back. In the course of one day, Tad makes the rounds of six parties he's been invited to (there is a seventh, but he can't remember where or what it is). The parties are a clever device O'Donnell uses to examine and satirize a slice of Manhattan life that he appears to know down to the last hors d'oeuvre. Tad himself--a baby-faced 34-year-old grad student in folklore--"can bear reality only by dressing it in metaphor." He comes across as the date you feel sorry for, which makes him an unpromising protagonist and delegates the vitality and fun of this very stagy novel to its over-the-top supporting cast. There's Les, Tad's formerly upwardly mobile brother, whose suicide attempt seems to have cauterized the ambition center in his brain: the last we see of him, he's walking a gingerbread man across his wife's buffet, introducing him to the doughnuts. And then there's Yoni, who "once organized a campaign to get `all you can eat' restaurants declared illegal on health grounds"; now she works as a "white witch, psychic masseur" and "erotomantic hipstress" and plans to serve cheese made from human breast milk at her next performance. If Tad never really comes to life, it's because the novel is essentially a group satire of a New York demimonde, with Tad more a personification of a type than a character with whom we can empathize.
Let Nothing You Dismay
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Oct 27, 1998
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 208 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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