Mark's Reviews > Sweet and Vicious

Sweet and Vicious by David Schickler
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Mar 03, 11

bookshelves: fiction
Read from November 15 to 20, 2010

David Schickler's short story collection, Kissing in Manhattan , is one of the best collections of short stories I've read in ages. Understandably, then, I was expecting a lot from Schickler's first novel.

Aside from the longish (50-page) second chapter, which, with a few tweaks, could have easily worked as a great stand-alone short story, the rest of Sweet and Vicious was thoroughly disappointing. In the acknowledgments Schickler thanks his film agent, and I'm not surprised--because the book reads like the novelization of a film script. Is it cynical of me to believe that Schickler wrote this book primarily in the hopes of turning it into (or a least selling the rights for) a movie? Even if this isn't the case, the events in Sweet and Vicious read like the plot-points of a not-very-good mobster/road movie. Even if a movie were to be made, I don't think it would do very well at the box office.

The stories in Kissing in Manhattan had their share of quirky elements, but those quirky elements worked. The quirky elements in Sweet and Vicious, however, stick out in gaudy, cartoonish ways. For example, a mob boss whose signature is sitting at his restaurant's bar eating blueberries soaked with wine, to the point where his teeth are stained a permanent blue? And he does this because his abusive stepfather, whom he hated, used to do so? As a character trait, this is memorable but also nonsensical and pointless.

I was hoping for the magic present in "The Smoker" or "Fourth Angry Mouse" but got something else; arguably, something less. I don't know if this is just Schickler's sophomore slump, or if he spent his talents in his first book, but Sweet and Vicious simply didn't hold together for me. I wonder if the author shouldn't stick to Manhattan and leave the rest of the country out of his fiction from now on.
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