I picked up Domestic Violets in the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble and opened to the first page, where our hero Tom Violets was deep in the middle of a conversation with his penis, desperately trying to give it a pep talk, because his wife was waiting in the bedroom, dressed in Victoria’s best, and his little buddy was not cooperating. If my penis were a writer/director, it would be Woody Allen – small, neurotic, and, frankly, hit or miss. Just as things are – er, looking up – burglar noises drift up the stairs, and Tom is forced to postpone sex and go downstairs to confront the danger, only to find his father, the famous novelist Curtis Violets, slightly drunk, rummaging through his fridge, because his most recent wife just threw him out.
So begins the story of Tom Violets, a writer trapped in a corporate drone’s body. He puts in time at the office, rolling his eyes at buzzwords words like leverage (which, as an aside, doesn’t mean what all those people think it means) and synergy (which I saw THREE TIMES in an email this week, and again, doesn’t mean what all those people think). The job pays the bills, and pays them pretty well, but Tom’s true dream is to become a writer. He’s married to a beautiful, smart, and very literary woman, but he’s feeling the seven-year-itch, and suspects that she is, too. He’s got a crush on his assistant copywriter, the beautiful and young Katie, who has just enough of a touch of manic pixie dream girl to get the point across.
In short order, Tom’s father wins the Pulitzer, Tom’s wife is maybe flirting with the idea of having an affair, Tom himself is maybe flirting with the idea of Katie, he quits his job, his mother leaves his stepfather, Gary, and he realizes that his book is good, but that he’s also emulating his father, which calls in to question everything he thought about himself as a writer. Plus, his archenemy was promoted when Tom quit and his dog has acute anxiety, but at least his best friend, who is a physician, is willing to keep him in Viagra samples, not that it does him any good, since he and his wife never manage to be in the mood at the same time. It’s a lot to handle, but Tom does so with humor and aplomb. And there’s a touch of sweetness in amongst the humor as well. At one point, Tom, his father, and Gary are all living in Tom’s house together, with only Tom’s five year old daughter Allie as female companionship, and it’s pretty apparent to all involved that Allie’s the only one who has her shit together, but Tom and Curtis and Gary are definitely making a valiant effort. “Somewhere in the third act,” he says, “women like her save characters like you and me from ourselves.”
Norman’s writing is crisp and funny, and his humor is smart and witty. This isn’t high literature, but it’s definitely worth a read.
“When you’re having sex again, it makes you wonder why you weren’t before. What could possibly have been bad enough to make you stop doing THAT?”
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